Sections: Pre-Contact America | Explorations and Encounters | Aftermath of the Encounter 

To learn about the indigenous peoples of the Americas, scholars draw on the rare texts that survived the European encounter, as well as objects used by indigenous peoples. The richest source of Pre-Columbian historical information comes from the ancient Maya, who developed the most sophisticated writing system in the Americas. The Maya and other native cultures often embellished their texts with illustrations, recording or carving them on objects of stone, ceramic, wood, and other surfaces. This section of the exhibition draws on select artifacts in the Kislak Collection and presents them as objects that, like books or documents, provide us with information about ceremonies, wars, court life, alliances, astronomy, calendars, and the reigns of kings. Reflecting the strengths of the Kislak Collection, this area deals principally with the pre-contact cultures of Mesoamerica, a territory that includes most of the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, and El Salvador.