The Robert Woods Bliss Collection of Pre-Columbian Art comprises objects from the ancient cultures of Mesoamerica, the Intermediate Area, and the Andes. Among its most important holdings are a variety of sculptures in stone, from elegant carvings of Aztec deities and animals, to several large relief panels bearing the likeness of Maya kings. Other stonework includes finely sculpted anthropomorphic figurines and polished jade renderings of ritual objects from the Olmec, Veracruz, and Teotihuacan cultures. Assorted stone and ceramic vessels are decorated with painted and carved imagery, elite portraits, and elaborate courtly scenes, providing insights into the artistic endeavors and political and ceremonial pursuits of the Mesoamerican elite.
Also in the collection are molded and painted ceramics of the Nasca, Moche, and Wari cultures, many of them bearing stylized representations of humans, animals, or supernatural beings. Gold and silver objects from the Chavín, Lambayeque, Chimú, and Inka cultures offer evidence of the expertise achieved by Andean metalsmiths, while over forty textiles and works in feathers testify to the importance of fiber arts in this region. A variety of personal objects in gold, shell, and semi-precious stone were part of the panoply of the elite, and attest to differences in taste, technology, and ideology across the Pre-Columbian world.