Machu Picchu Inka ceremonial centre.
Ancient peoples' interactions with the landscape were manifest in several ways:
- The land was a source of food and raw materials for shelter and clothing.
- Availability of resources and the ability to control access shaped the growth of settlements and brought about the rise of great cities and states.
- It provided inspiration for cultural and artistic expression. People depicted the plants and animals of the natural physical landscape on their ceramics, textiles, stone work and metal work.
- The landscape was the source of a sacred relationship, where activities of human life were bound to the forces of nature and cosmos. The cosmological landscape was represented on cloth and ceramics and reflected belief systems and cultural and religious practices.
The landscape of Mexico, Central and South America is remarkably varied: it includes lush lowland forest, dry desert, highland plains and snow capped volcanic mountains. In an attempt to understand ancient cultures, we can look at the way that people interacted with the natural world to control their food sources, obtain shelter and clothing, find inspiration for artistic expression and maintain balance in the cosmological order.