Sat | Jun 15, 2019

History of Peruvian artefacts

Published:Sunday | January 27, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Peruvian artefact.

Peru is a South American country that is bordered in the north by Ecuador and Colombia, in the east by Brazil, in the southeast by Bolivia, in the south by Chile, and in the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peru is a bio-diverse country with habitats ranging from the arid plains of the Pacific coastal region in the west to the peaks of the Andes mountains vertically extending from the north to the southeast of the country to the tropical Amazon Basin rainforest in the east with the Amazon river. This country is famous for many things including food such as ceviche, the Amazon rainforest and the Inca trail. The country is also very famous for the remnants of the various indigenous civilizations that developed throughout Peru’s’ history. Records indicate that Peru was inhabited 14,000 years ago by hunters and gatherers. Who eventually developed agricultural and irrigation techniques, as well as complex socio-political hierarchies that eventually evolved into sophisticated civilizations, which resulted in the development of technology and monumental construction.

Today many people flock to Peru to experience the remnants of many of the country’s indigenous civilizations. One such culture was the Chancay, who were a pre-Columbian archaeological civilization which developed between the valleys of Fortaleza, Pativilca, Supe, Huaura, Chancay, Chillón, Rimac and Lurin, on the central coast of Peru, from about CE 1000 to 1470. The Chancay culture reigned mainly in the valleys of Chancay and Chillon on the middle coast of Peru.

The Chancay culture is described as very mysterious, because little is known about them, because of the lack of of written records. Thus, much of what is known regarding this civilization is derived from its archaeological remains as well as ethnographic history. Based on the available evidence, it seems that the Chancay culture had a certain degree of political integration, it is possible that they even had a centralized from of political structure. Nevertheless, this culture did not achieve the level of organization that some other pre-Columbian civilizations, for instance, the Inca Empire, achieved.

One of the ways that researchers have been able to study the Chancay is through their textiles and ceramics. The textiles consist of embroidery work, paint-decorated fabrics, gauzes and three-dimensional groups of dolls. The Chancay ceramics like the examples pictured were made with two part molds, and are matt-surfaced and almost without exception are painted white and black. The Chancay vessels are often big and rather peculiar in form. Large egg-shaped jars are common. In addition to vessels, dolls that are quite big, too, and often represent the both sexes have been made from clay. The big egg shaped vessel depicts a man holding a small bowl or a cup between his hands. He is depicted with little body decoration and painted in white with black decoration. Because of the size of the vessel, it is probably safe to say that the vessel depicts an important person.


The second Chancay object is referred to as Cuchimilco or as a guardian figure. These dolls or figures traditionally came in pairs of male and female. The figures would be similar but were painted differently to indicate gender and differences in dress. The exact function of these figures is unknown, but it is thought that they may have acted as guardians to the tombs of the Chancay people, or as companions in the afterlife. The cuchimilco sculptures are modelled after humans with stocky bodies, a flat head, raised arms and short legs. Most figures lack proper clothing besides bracelets, headdresses or hats, and masks around their eyes. The faces on these figures are very small with the features close together. Also, there is a surprised expression on most of the figures, which is shown by wide eyes and often a gaped open mouth. When clothing is present, such as a poncho, the black lines create geometric patterns that often display various types of animals important to the culture. Dolls and vessels such as the ones pictured were found in vast numbers around Chancay burial sites. While there is a great deal of unknown information about the Chancay it is known that their civilization was eventually subsumed by the larger more powerful Incas. It is still a mystery as to how these objects because part of the National Collection of Jamaica.

Did you know?

That there are over 3,000 different varieties of Potato grown in Peru.

Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica