South America to c. 1500

Inverse-face beaker
Feline fangs, rather than human teeth, suggest that this figure is either supernatural or in contact with deities.

Inverse-Face Beaker

Intro to the Inka
The Inka empire spanned from Ecuador to Chile, and was connected by a road system used for official business only.

Introduction to the Inka

Detail, Keru Vessel, Inka, lacquered wood, Colonial, Peru (Brooklyn Museum) Keru Cup. Inka. Colonial. Wood; lacquered, 7 3/8 x 6 15/16inches / 18.7 x 17.6cm (Brooklyn Museum)
Although this vessel depicts a royal Inka couple, it was produced after the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors.

Keru Vessel

These receptacles held liquid offerings, the surface of the liquid were eyes that saw into the underworld.

Inka stone vessels

Mask with Nose Ornament, c. 500 B.C.E.–1600 C.E., gold alloy, 15.5 x 18 cm, Quimbaya © The Trustees of the British Museum. This spectacular hammered mask with a dangling nose ornament would probably have been placed on top of the face of a funerary bundle – the wrapped body of the deceased—transforming him into an ancestor and semi-divine figure.
For centuries Europeans were dazzled by the idea of a lost city of gold in South America… but did it really exist?

Ancient Colombian goldmaking

Nasca culture
These images carved into the desert floor cannot be truly appreciated from the ground—so who were they made for?

Nasca Geoglyphs

Feline-Head Bottle
Multiple points of view are combined in the decoration of this vessel, tip it and see!

Feline-Head Bottle

A well-known ushnu site, Vilcashuaman was a major Inka administrative centre on the main Inka road running along the Andes mountain chain and down to the coast. © Trustees of the British Museum
Sites for ritual activity, ushnus occupied the best real estate, chosen for their views of snow-capped mountains.

What is an Inka ushnu?

Moche bottle
Thousands of ceramic bottles were produced by Moche ceramicists, and many multiples were made using molds.

Moche Portrait Head Bottle

All-T’oqapu Tunic
Andean cultures had long valued textiles, but they were especially significant and finely-made in the Inka Empire.

All-T’oqapu Tunic

Machu Picchu
The Inka emperor hosted feasts, performed religious ceremonies, and ruled his empire from this remote citadel.

Machu Picchu

Maize cobs, Inka, c. 1440–1533, Sheet metal/repoussé, metal alloys, 25.7 x 6 x 9 cm (Ethnological Museum, Berlin) (photo: Ethnological Museum, Berlin, CC BY-NC-SA)
A life-size metallic garden at the Qorikancha included these corn cobs, llamas, and other offerings.

Maize cobs