The world-renowned exhibition
at the Russian Ethnography Museum
in St. Petersburg
Fundación Miguel Mujica Gallo. Lima.
The world-renowned exhibition at the Russian Ethnography Museum
in St. Petersburg
(Museo Oro del Perú y Armas del Mundo)
Fundación Miguel Mujica Gallo. Lima.
The grandiose exhibition “The Gold of the Inca Empire: God, Power, Eternity” demonstrates the enigmatic allure of the Inca culture and the major pre-Columbian cultures of South America. All exhibits are part of Peru’s national heritage. The displayed objects cover almost 2500 years of pre-Columbian Peruvian culture and are unique given that Peruvian goldsmiths, on religious grounds, never replicated their works.
The following major pre-Columbian cultures will be present in the exhibition:
Vicús (500 BC–500 AD)
The Vicús culture settled in Piura valley, in the rocky inland area in the very north of Peru on the border with Ecuador. It was influenced by the adjoining cultures in the north in Ecuador and Columbia and the famous Moche culture. This is why Vicús is considered the link between earlier cultures and Moche. The Vicús culture is known for its mastery of metallurgy, making copper, gold and bronze alloys.
Frías (100 –ca. ´300 AD)
Frías is a small settlement in Peru, located in the mountains of Piura region. Science knows very little about this culture. The surviving objects were discovered in burial sites, not far from the settlement of Frías. The goldsmiths of the Frías culture were known for their stylised works: they had honed their technique for making rings, staples and cones for braided gold and platinum objects, without revealing the joints to make them perfectly seamless.
Nazca (100 BC–600 AD)
The Nazca culture inhabited the southern coast of Peru and was named after the fluvial valley at its geographical centre. This culture had extensive knowledge about irrigation techniques. With the help of various underground water systems, theNazcas managed to adapt to life in littoral deserts. They gained worldwide fame for the Nazca lines created in the desert plateau. The Nazca lines occupy nearly 500 square metres of dry pampas. The lines include absolutely straight kilometre-long lines, geometrical figures, such as trapezes and spirals, and huge animal figures up to 700 metres tall. From the sky, a multitude of symbols can be seen: a humming bird, a condor, a monkey, as well as a small man, who represents, most likely, an astronaut. The Nazca lines are believed to have had a religious or astronomic significance or to have served as a calendar for the optimisation of farming.
Moche (100 –800 AD)
The Moches lived on the northern coast of Peru, in the valley of Moche river. It existed almost contemporaneously with the Nazca culture. The Moches divided the territory they controlled into regional states, where big cities with a number of regional styles and cultures emerged. They were skilful warriors and mastered pottery-making. It is believed that the Moches tirelessly combated the consequences of the El Niño phenomenon for 30 years, which was followed by a severe drought and led to the destruction of their irrigation infrastructure. As a result, the Moches were forced to leave their coastal settlements for remote inland territories. Subsequently, continuously a steady reduction of resources and famine gave rise to civil wars and social upheavals, and ultimately led to their demise.
Tiwanaku (600–1150 AD)
The Tiwanaku lived in the Peruvian highlands and practiced terraced farming. Tiwanaku was a powerful religious centre, located around Lake Titicaca. In 2000, the ruins of the pre-Columbian Tiwanaku culture were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Tiwanakus were mostly involved in trade between cities using llama caravans. Thus, they could exchange various goods between various regions. At its height, the influence of the Tiwanaku culture reached all the way to the Pacific coast, the Atacama Desert, to some regions in present-day Argentina. Tiwanaku was a popular pilgrimage centre. In 800 AD, there were 30,000 people living in the city. The three-meter high Gate of the Sun is considered the most well-known construction of this culture, still visited by many pilgrims.
Wari (650–900 AD)
Inspired by the religious conceptions of the Tiwanaku culture, the Wari state was established almost simultaneously. Trade relations with the Tiwanaku culture are considered to have facilitated a similar development of this state. The political centre of the Wari empire was located about 25 kilometres northward of present-day Ayacucho. The Waris engaged in warfare, conquering numerous smaller cultures, such as Nazca, Moche, and Huarpa. The conquered were forced to submit to the religious conceptions of the Wari culture and adopt their economic system. The Waris had an advanced central government and a well-organized army and they were good road builders. Their temples, such as Willkawayin, are considered architectural wonders and have been well preserved to this today. Both the Wari and Tiwanaku empires predated the Inca civilization. They made many discoveries, which the Inca later build on and successfully used for effective management of their empire (irrigation, highland terraced farming, quipu accounting (“talking knots”), centralized government, road construction, military strategies and the extensive manufacture of bronze weapons and tools).
As a result of periods of drought, the Wari and Tiwanaku cultures disintegrated into regional states, of which Chimú is the most notable .
Lambayeque (800–1375 AD)
Two new empires flourished in the 7th century: Lambayeque and Chimú. The height of the Lambayeque culture was between 700-1400 AD. Subsequently it became the Chimú culture. The Lambayeque culture, also known as Sican, was located in the fertile oasis valleys in northern Peru on the border with Ecuador near the present-day city of Chiclayo. It is believed that Lambayeque may be an offshoot of the Wari culture. Some elements of the centrally governed Wari state are preserved in the cultures of northern coastal peoples, primarily in their social and political structure and art. Lambayeque is known for the biggest cluster of pyramids built of unfired bricks. It is believed that these pyramids, totalling around 260, were of religious significance.
Chiribaya (950–1375 AD)
It is still unknown where the Chiribaya culture emerged and how it spread. It has been established that the Chiribayas lived in the valley of the Osmore River, about 800 kilometres from Lima. Their territory was the very south of Peru and extended to Azapa Valley. This culture evolved over 600 years. It is still only scantily studied and is known only to a small number of experts. The Chiribayas were skilful at mummifying the dead. The poor Chiribayas were buried in simple pits with few objects and simple fabrics. The nobility, on the other hand, was buried in rectangular tombs with dozens of ornate pottery, glittery decorated garments, headdress, feathers, wicker and woodworks, leather, copper and gold goods. They were provided with food and coca, and even two female consorts for notable lords. These rare and extremely rich burial sites indicate that the Chiribaya polity were ruled by mighty authorities. They also had a custom of burying their dogs between the tombs of their relatives, with food and blankets for the long journey to the realm of the dead.
Chimú (900–1470 AD)
The Chimú culture inhabited the northern coast of Peru, not far from the city of Trujillo. There stands the impressive Chan Chan palace built of unfired clay bricks, known as the capital of the Chimú empire, stretching along the entire coast of northern Peru to the border with Ecuador. Thus, Chimú was a very influential culture and its capital Chan Chan, with a population of 30,000, was considered the largest capital in South America. Chan Chan was mainly built of clay, in addition to wood and thatch, and covered a surface of around 28 square kilometres. In 1986, Chan Chan was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The characteristic symbols of the Chimú style relate to nature (fish, sea birds, marine animals) and depictions of rainbows, present both in architecture and artistic works. Their technological knowledge of metalwork and other types of artistic handicraft was very extensive. The Chimú were skilful goldsmiths. At the time of the Chimú culture, tombs were sumptuously decorated with a large number of intricate objects made of noble metals, huge gold masks and splendid adornments, which were passed on to the deceased in the hundreds. After long-standing rivalry, the Chimú were forced to yield to the Inca. In 1470 AD, the Inca ruler Pachacuti Yupanqui seized the mountains adjacent to Chan Chan and paralyzed the Chimú’s system of irrigation, depriving them of their livelihood and by that destroying the city. Nearly half the Chimú elite was killed. However, weavers, potters and silversmiths were resettled to Cuzco, considerably influencing the Inca style over time.
Inca (1200–1532 AD)
The Inca state emerged at the periphery of the Andes ecumene, in the Urubamba River basin, with the Amazon River north-east from it. Initially, the Inca were a group of peasants that settled in the upland plateau of Cuzco and frequently engaged in armed conflicts with their neighbours. It was only under the rule of the ninth Inca Pachacuti Yupanqui (1438–1471) and his son Topa Yupanqui (1471–1493) that the Incas snatched decisive military victories, which opened up a phase of a deliberate expansion policy
The Inca state was highly-organized and stratified. This helped the Incas to extend the borders of their empire and, finally, seize the territories all the way to the borders with Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador – stretching 4000 km from south to north and about 300–600 km from east to west. The upper moiety in the empire was selected exclusively from the Inca and held key posts in the government and the army. In addition, successful field commanders, builders and artisans could climb their way up to this moiety. They too enjoyed Inca privileges; wore expensive garments, gold and silver jewellery; and lived in palaces