Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Peru: The Past Captured in Clay

   One of the great tragedies of history, in my opinion, is that the Pre-Columbian civilizations of the Americas left no written records. What we know is often inferred from graves and other archaeological sites.  Peru, in addition to the still-standing stone walls built by the Tahuatinsuyo (Inca) empire and the cultures that preceded it, has had rich archaeological finds that have allowed scholars such as Rafael Larco to stitch together a history of the region's various cultures starting about 500 B.C.
    The discoveries have been mainly ceramic vessels created in communities along Peru's north coast and in the Andes.  The Museo Larco in Lima (click HERE for website) and the affiliated Museo de Arte Precolombino in Cusco (click HERE for website) have done brilliant jobs assembling and interpreting these vessels.  The curator notes for each piece are among the best such notes I've seen in any museum anywhere. 
     Jane and I have been taking pottery classes, so during our fall trip to Peru we were particularly interested in seeing Pre-Columbian pottery. We looked at the vessels in terms of the craftsmanship (which was amazing) and as art objects. Fortunately, both museums allowed photography. Here are some of the vessels that caught our eye. 

This piece (left) depicts a
monkey-man preparing
a body for burial.

Almost all of the portrait
 vessels, such as the one at right, are
 thought to depict specific individuals. 
 The museum in Cusco had three vessels 
said to be by different artists showing 
the same person at three different ages.

This vessel shows three dead men. The one in the middle
is masturbating.  Depictions of almost every
form of sex can be seen at the Museo Larco's erotica gallery, which
explains that some nonprocreative sex acts are thought
 to have had religious meaning.
A graphic depiction of childbirth. 

This reminded us of 20th-century Cubism.

We saw nothing else
 with swirls like this.
Here's a bowl that could be easily copied
by a competent potter today.

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