Early Native American Art
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Early Native American Art

We don't really have any art from North America in the Paleo-Indian period, before about 8000 BC. Even from the Archaic period (down to about 1000 BC), there isn't anything specifically created as art.

Woodland dog pipe
A Woodland period pipe shaped like a dog
(from modern Alabama)

Beginning near the end of the Archaic period, though, and then into the Woodland period, people began to carve stone pipes to smoke tobacco for religious reasons, and they decorated these pipes with all sorts of carvings. The Adena people of the Ohio river valley made big earth mounds in geometric shapes or in the shape of animals, like the Serpent Mound.

South-western pottery
Pueblo pottery, about 850 AD

By the Mississippian period, starting about 800 AD, suddenly lots of people were making art all over North America. In the south-west, Pueblo people decorated pottery. Further east, Mississippian people carved stone pipes and flat palettes. Cherokee people in the south-east carved stone pipes into the shape of people.

Arkansas pipe
Human-shaped pipe from Arkansas,
before 1500 AD

To the Cherokees' north, Iroquois women made pottery with human faces on it. Still further north, around the same time (900-1400 AD),Algonquin artists carved people and animals and other signs into rocks.

Learn by doing: a rock art project
American art after Europeans invaded

Bibliography and further reading about early Native American art:

More about early Native Americans
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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