Museum für Völkerkunde Hamburg
Schamanenmaske aus Holz und Vogelfedern, Alaska, vor 1881; Foto: Brigitte Saal

The American double continent, stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, is represented with an extensive variety of archaeological and ethnographical inventory. Unusual Inuit objects and modern Native-American art from the North Western Coast and a collection of precious ceramics from South Western USA are among the most outstanding North American artefacts. The objects were collected by Aby Warburg, an expert in art and cultural history, and donated to the museum in 1899/1902.

Some of our most popular objects are from the Plains Indians, such as pipe bags, tepees and one of the oldest know painted war shirts of the Sioux. The highlights of this collection have been selected for the current exhibition “Indians of North America – Searching for a trace”

The archaeological collections of Central and South America document the high cultures of Ancient America such as the Olmec, Teotihuacan, Maya, Aztek, Quimbaya, Nazca, Moche, Chimu and Inca cultures. The exhibition “Treasures of the Andes – the Inca gallery and the treasures” displays numerous precious objects of ancient Adean cultures, such as feathers and ritual objects of gold and silver.

The so-called “chest of Hackmack” of the Azteks dating back to about 1470, has achieved world renown. The chest is regarded as exceptional evidence of the practice of glyptic art in the high valley of Mexico in the late, post-classical era.

The ethnographic collection from Guatemala originating in the 20th century and consisting mainly of numerous and varied textiles also has great significance for that culture. The collection provides an excellent insight into the distinguished craftsmanship and into the social, economic and religious life of the modern Maya. Brazil is represented in part by an interesting collection from the Candomblé, one of the most important Afro- Brazilian cults. Numerous enchantingly vivid feather objects from the Amazon region gives one a feeling for the diversity of the Indian cultures in this large region.

Another highlight is the collection of the Saramanka, the African slaves who escaped from Surinam. The collection includes everyday objects such as equipment for agricultural use, such as utensils to separate grain from chaff, as well as stools and combs unique for their unusual shapes, elaborate woodwork and nail burnishing.


Christine Chávez
Head of the America department
phone: 040. 428 879-517

Currently, selected artefacts of the collection are on display in our exhibition INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICASEARCHING FOR A TRACE