The Nayarit culture of western Mexico is usually dated to around 200 BC to 500 AD. Their art has the quality, rare in the ancient world, of making their lives seem pleasant and relaxed. Consider this dance scene. This may be some kind of religoius ritual, but the feeling one gets from it is that the people are mainly enjoying each other's company.
This famous, badly worn piece is known as the Circle of Friends, and is the model for the logos of several Mexican associations.
Here's a better preserved example of the same design.
A couple of Nayarit gentlemen. There are few depictions of Nayarit men fighting, but plenty of them all dressed up and sitting around.
Even more common are depictions of couples. These all come from tombs, so these were the sort of people who imagined spending eternity together.
Archaeologists love Nayarit art because of the delightful depictions of houses. Dozens of these are known.
Some people in the houses seem to be working, but more look like they're just hanging out.
One interpretation of the multilevel houses is that the ground floor represents the underworld where the dead ancestors reside. And what did they imagine dead ancestors doing?
Village scenes. Love the hats.
Village with someone who seems to be flying overhead.
When European art historians steeped in the classical tradition first encountered these works, they thought the figuruines were dwarfs, trolls, or some other kind of grotesque. But, no, this was just the way Nayarit artists depicted themselves.
Just looking at these puts me in a better mood. This is my favorite, the character known as the Storyteller. Imagine him with one of those circles of friends and neighbors, leaning in close to hear him recount his tale of ancient gods and heroes; one of the funny ones, most likely, so everyone could laugh about it together.