Peruvian Pottery

Ancient Peru was the seat of several prominent Andean civilizations, most notably that of the Incas whose empire was captured by the Spanish conquistadors in 1533.

During the reign of the Inca’s, the production of pottery in the Andes was an art that had already developed in the region for thousands of years. One characteristic of Inca pottery is that it did not portray the human form, unlike other cultures that thrived before them. They focused more on geometric patterns and shapes and heads of animals. The pottery of the Incas  lacked the drama and artistry of the ceramics of earlier civilizations of Peru like the Moche and Nazca.

A Mochicas Terracotta Head

The best example of pottery produced before the days of the Inca Empire is found in the ceramics produced by the Moche or Mochica culture that thrived from 100 to 700 AD in the northern Peruvian coast. The Moche produced large amounts of pottery aided by the use of molds to create large quantities of specific shapes. Their color pallet was mostly limited to red, black and white. They used anthropomorphic figures and animal faces and bodies to shape their ceramic. They were the only pre-Inca culture to incorporate realistic facial expressions and emotions in their pottery work, a characteristic that the Inca pottery  did not employ.

Moche bottle depicting a hunting scene

Moche figural vessel

The production and the use of pottery during the Inca Civilization had two purposes, utilitarian and ceremonial. Ceremonial pottery also known as huaco was of the best quality material and the most elaborate, it was made specifically for ceremonial purposes or rituals only, such as in burial grounds containing drinks and food that the dead would need for its journey. The finest pottery and ceramic was produced for religious ceremonies, they would contain the food offered to the Inca gods such as Inti or Sun.

Utilitarian pottery was produced for everyday use and was usually thicker and less elaborate. The most common Inca vessel was the stirrup spout which is a bottle shaped vase intended for holding liquids with a long neck that forms the spout which usually serves as a handle. Inca effigy jars were also a popular utilitarian ceramic that was made in large quantities since they were casted from a mold, whereas the stirrup spouts were handmade and welded into the vessel.

Cocle-Bowl-1200AD

Cocle-Bowl-1200AD

Ceremonial Inca vessel

Ceremonial Inca Vase with Jaguar handles

INCA (1438-1533) ceramics were painted using the polychrome technique portraying numerous motifs including animals, birds, waves, felines ( popular in the Chavin culture) and geometric patterns found in the Nazca  ceramics.

Moche sculptural stirrup spout bottle .Peru

Moche sculptural stirrup spout bottle

Larco Museum –  Lima, Peru

Moche seated figure bottle from Peru

Seated figure bottle, 2nd–5th century
Peru; Moche Ceramic

( Met NY )

The Arbalo is one of the most characteristic forms of Inca pottery. With its long-necked jar and conical base it was used to serve the beer on major holidays.

Inca Culture, AD 1430-1532

Peruvian storage vessels

Peruvian storage vessels

Mayan jade mask

Peru Stirrup spout bottle with snake

Stirrup-spout bottle with snake, 2nd–3rd century
Peru; Moche Ceramic

Huaco retrato

Moche Jar 4th Century

Moche Jar 4th Century

( Artsconnected )

Globular vase with high relief.Wari Culture. AD 500 to 1000

Globular vase with high relief.

Wari Culture. AD 500 to 1000

Moche Ceramic Portrait Head Bottle

Portrait Head Bottle, 5th–6th century
Peru; Moche Ceramic

( Met NY )

Peruvian Colonial Chalice

Inca Colonial blackware vessel dating to the early Colonial period.

1550 AD – 1600 AD      ( Ancient Artifax )

Storage pot

Storage pot

Chimu Canteen -with  image of Shaman

Cuspisnique Vessel

Inca Aribalo

Peruvian ceramic vessel with carved decoartion

Peruvian ceramic vessel with carved decoartion

Large oval jar, Nazcar, Peru

Large ceramic oval jar, Nazcar

300BC – 600AD

Dual spout drinking vessel

Inca Jaguar handled Vase

Twin handled Inca Aribalo

Twin handled Inca Aribalo The predominant decoration consisted of geometric, zoomorphic and sculptural designs.

Nazca drinking vessel from Peru

Nazca drinking vessel with warrior figures.

polychrome-twin-spout-pot-307x399

This vessel portrays a pelican fishing and catching three mythical killer whales, showing the importance of coastal activities in Nazca culture.

Andean 900 BCE-1532 CE

Artsconnected,  Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Inca Kero (  drinking vessel )

Double spout vessel-477x435

This vessel features a dual-image of a jaguar and an eagle, two of the most important animals in ancient Andean beliefs.

Large ovoid jar

Large ovoid jar representing a crouching human figure

 Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu towers over Peru’s Urubamba Valley at 7930 feet above sea level. Its exact purpose remains unknown although modern researchers believe it was a royal estate for Pachacuti, the ninth Sapa Inca, or king, of the Kingdom of Cusco.

Machu Picchu was built around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire and was abandoned  just over 100 years later in 1573.  Fortunately the Spanish conquistadors weren’t aware of the location and didn’t have the chance to plunder or deface any of the sacred rocks there, like they did at other Inca Temples. While the Inca pottery was fairly basic, their feats as architects, engineers and stonemasons were unrivalled when they were rulers in the early Fifteenth Century. Their construction of the palatial granite complex, Machu Picchuu, in the Sacred Valley, is an absolute marvel. It was built to withstand earthquakes, by being constructed without any mortar so the stones could absorb vibrations,  and it had a sophisticated filtration system to prevent landslides. The remote and unique location was chosen as it sat in the middle of the 4 main sacred mountains of Peru.

The location of Machu Picchu was determined by “sacred geography” because the site was built on and around mountains that held high religious importance in the Inca culture and in the previous cultures that occupied the region. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham.

Explorer Hiram Bingham poses in front of a rock sculpture carved to resemble a Sacred mountain in Peru.

Hiram Bingham wrote:

 ” In addition to agriculture and the breeding of useful plants and animals, the Incas carried to a remarkable extreme the manufacture of graceful,symmetrical pottery. They learned to recognize different kinds and qualities of potter’s clay. They selected localities marked by the finest type of clay for the worship of favorable divinities and the manufacture of the most delicate dishes. “

.“In the variety of its charms and the power of its spell, I know of no place in the world which can compare with it. Not only has it great snow peaks looming above the clouds more than two miles overhead, gigantic precipices of many-colored granite rising sheer for thousands of feet above the foaming, glistening, roaring rapids; it has also, in striking contrast, orchids and tree ferns, the delectable beauty of luxurious vegetation, and the mysterious witchery of the jungle.” ~ Hiram Bingham, 1922

 

 

 

Temple bathhouse

Photo – Andre Gunther

 

Photo – Andre Gunther

www.aguntherphotography.com

Photo – Andre Gunther

This rock platform at Machu Picchu is situated plum in the middle of four sacred mountains. It was the base for a gold sun disk that was later hidden after the Spanish invasion. The sacred ‘Intihuatana’ or ‘hitching post of the Sun’, was used in Inca religious festivals. It is unique as the Spanish destroyed all other such stone sculptures as evidence of idolatry.

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6 Comments

  1. Barb
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    best pictures ever, love the art too..

  2. Sherry McCall
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I have a piece of pottery looks peruvian called Cargador De Agua can you tell me anything about this piece? about 8 inches by 4 inches. Thank you for your help.

  3. robbie
    Posted September 30, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Cargdor De Agua … cargo water .. used to transport water, usually suspended with a matching vessel for balance on a shoulder pole.

  4. Noemi
    Posted November 19, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    Hi, I have Huaco from Peru,it’s 8″ tall and 14″ base, by my researches it was a ceremony or ritual to gods for when someone die. I also understand that is from the 500′s BC. It was maybe a drinking. I would like to know more about it, and if is worth any kind of money.

    Thank you

  5. tori
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Why do you think that the houses is art?

  6. robbie
    Posted May 27, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Anything with shape, form, texture and perspective can be interpreted as art The spirit of the location, the strength and purpose, the conquering of the formidable mountains,the mystery, this is art too.

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