Archaeologists thrilled as ‘eye-opening’ Peru artefacts expose ‘extraordinary’ secret past

Peru: Archaeologists discover 1000 year old skeleton

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More than 40 artefacts from across the Atlantic have been loaned to the iconic British institution as part of the Peru: a journey in time exhibition. The items, some of which date back more than 3,000 years, have been carefully selected to represent a slice of Peru’s pre-Incan past. Starting with the ancient Chavin culture in 1200 BC, through to the final days of the Inca Empire in 1532 AD, the archaeological exhibition will follow the rise of six little-known societies.

According to the British Museum, the exhibition aims to showcase how different people thrived in one of the world’s most “challenging and geographically diverse” regions.

From towering mountains of the Andes to the Amazon’s tropical rainforests and the bone-dry deserts along the Pacific coast, Peru’s ancient inhabitants were as varied as its landscapes.

Co-curator Cecilia Pardo said: “While the Incas are one of the most well-known civilisations from Peru, they were actually relatively recent in terms of the long history of this region.

“We’ll be taking visitors back many thousands of years earlier, to show how the extraordinary past cultures of Peru were shaped by unique ways of living within the landscapes of the central Andes, one of the cradles of world civilisation.

“They’ll discover the story of how these ancient Peruvian societies had unique approaches to economy, gender, agriculture, power and beliefs, and how they thrived against the odds right up until the Inca conquest by the Spanish.

“It will be eye-opening, and will challenge common Western assumptions about how societies are constructed.”

The loaned artefacts, many of which have never travelled to the UK before, are put on display alongside the British Museum’s own collection of about 80 other pieces.

It is the first time the British Museum has staged a major exhibition on the South American country and it coincides with the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain.

Among the more unique items in the collection is an intricately decorated Nasca ceremonial drum dated between 100 BC and 650 AD.

The drum’s sides are painted and depict a bloody scene of battle in which the Nasca’s enemies are being captured in ritual combat.

Another highlight is a 2,500-year-old headdress fashioned out of gold.

The object was found alongside a pair of ear plates at the elite burial site of Kuntur Wasi or “Condor House” in the Andean highlands.

The ear plates are highly ornate and adorned with images of human faces boasting fangs and snake appendages.

The oldest artefact on loan is a ceremonial vessel belonging to the Cupisnique culture from along Peru’s northern Pacific coast.

The vessel has been fashioned into the shape of a twisted human body and has been dated to about 1200 BC.

It is likely the object is meant to represent a person born with a disease that allowed for loose joints and incredible flexibility – an ability that was revered by the Cupisnique.

Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said: “A single step through the front doors of the British Museum is always the first step on a journey, and with this exhibition we invite visitors to travel through the history of one of the most captivating regions in the world.

“The scale of the generous loan of ancient objects from museums in Peru is unprecedented and a landmark opportunity to see them here in the UK.

“The fascinating range of material on display collectively challenges perceptions of how the world can be viewed and understood.

“We are grateful for the support of PROMPERU for making it all possible.”

The exhibition kicked off on November 11 and will wrap up next year on February 20.

It is being organised with the help of the Peruvian Commission for the Promotion of Export and Tourism (PROMPERU).

The exhibition is ticketed at £15 per head, although under 16s enter free of charge.

Peru: a journey in time is held in the British Museum’s Joseph Hotung Great Court Gallery.

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