Museum Collections - Intermediate Area
The Intermediate Culture Area is a loosely defined culture area or zone that encompasses the southern part of Central America and the northern part of South America. The area is not well known archaeologically, and there is some disagreement as to whether the cultures included within the definition were historically interrelated.
Stratified, state-level societies and regional "empires" were characteristic of the Classic Period in Mesoamerica and roughly corresponding periods in the Andes. However, these types of societies do not seem to have developed in the Intermediate Culture Area. The available evidence supports the idea that between about 500 B.C. and A.D. 1000, chieftainships were the main type of political organization in the area. During this period chieftains seem to have controlled trade through the area, and to have collected tariffs on gold, jade, distinctive types of ceramics and other luxury items.
At the time of the Spanish invasion (c. A.D. 1520), travellers described chiefdoms in Panama and Colombia that were more socially complex than those in other parts of Central America. Regional ceramics, gold metallurgy and stone sculpture were important in all of these areas.