People have always been fascinated by animals. In the ancient Americas, wildlife such as jaguars and killer whales became symbols of divinity and rulership. Artworks made in the images of these creatures played significant roles in religion and society.

The inventive ways in which animals were depicted in art provide a window into the beliefs and practices of long-gone cultures that never developed written language and left few traces other than their art. The Museum’s significant Pre-Columbian collection comprises remarkable examples, which come together thematically for the first time in the exhibition Fangs, Feathers, and Fins: Sacred Creatures in Ancient American Art.

More than 200 objects, spanning nearly 5,000 years, explore the significance that different animals held, demonstrating how the peoples of the ancient Americas viewed themselves and the world around them. Among the works on view are evocative ceramic vessels and stone monuments made by the Maya and Olmec of ancient Mexico, a feather tunic from the Nasca people of Peru, and intricate gold ornaments from the Tairona culture of Colombia.

Inside the MFAH
Find out more about what inspired this exhibition: 
Lions, Tigers, and . . . Llamas? Exploring the Ancient American Cosmos



This exhibition is organized by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.