Skip to Content
Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

Works of art from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean range from ancient cultures to cutting-edge artists of today. Among the highlights are the Glassell Collection of Pre-Columbian Gold and the museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary art by Latin American and Latino artists.

Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, or Belize
Ceremonial Flint with K'awiil and Two Lords in a Monster-Headed Canoe

5 1/2 x 12 5/8 x 5/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the Alice Pratt Brown Museum Fund

Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, & the Americas

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

The Maya imbued flint with sacred power because they believed it was created when the rain gods hurled bolts of lightning to earth. This Ceremonial Flint shows three figures traveling to the watery underworld in a canoe that features carved heads on the prow and stern. In the center of the canoe is K'awiil, the god of lineage, dynasty, and kingship. Flanking him are the Hero Twins of the great Maya epic the Popol Vuh. Along the bottom of the canoe, elaborate scallops suggest the waters of the underworld.

From 100 to 1000 AD, the ancient Maya created one of the most advanced civilizations in Mesoamerica. Occupying present-day Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and southeastern Mexico, the Maya were organized into city-states, often at war with each other. They built large and impressive palaces and temples.

Depicting rulers and gods, Maya art displays a refined and graceful art style. The Maya created the only true writing system known in the Americas. Using symbols called hieroglyphs, they recorded important events on carved stone monuments.