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Inca (Peru)

Aryballus

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Object Details

Culture

Inca (Peru)
Late Horizon period (1438–1532)

Medium

Ceramic and polychrome

Dimensions

8 1/4 x 7 inches (21 x 17.8 cm)

Credit Line

Transfer from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Object
Number

56.203

BRIEF DESCRIPTION
This urpu, or aryballoid jar, is the most characteristic Inca ceramic vessel sh(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION
This urpu, or aryballoid jar, is the most characteristic Inca ceramic vessel shape: a bottle with a pointed base, small lug handles, and an outflaring rim at the top of the spout.

WHERE WAS IT MADE?
This vessel was made by the Incas, a Quechua-speaking highland people whose capital was located at the city of Cusco, located in what is now Peru. By the time of the Spanish Conquest in 1532, the Inca Empire, Tawantinsuyu, stretched from the border of Ecuador and Colombia to the Maule River in Chile. The Incas had an elaborate road system that enabled them to move people, goods, and information, and which extended throughout their empire.

HOW WAS IT MADE?
Cusco-Inca ceramics vessels were made from coils, which are rolled by hand, and sequentially added to one another to build the walls of the vessel. The walls are smoothed, leaving no outward trace of the coils. The Cusco-Inca ceramics typically have fine linear geometric motifs painted in black on a smooth red ground. The red ground is made of slip, a mixture of clay particles suspended in water. After the vessel was decorated with slip, it was fired in an earthen pit to harden.

HOW WAS IT USED?
Bottles with a narrow-necked shape, such as this one, may have been used to carry and serve liquids, since the narrow neck would have reduced losses from accidental spills and evaporation. Although water is vital in desert environments such as those found in many parts of the Andes, recent analyses of residues from Peruvian bottles and jars suggest that these vessels were used to serve corn (maize) beer or chicha. Chicha was both an everyday beverage, made in households for family consumption, and an essential element in ritual and social interactions.

WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?
This Inca aryballoid jar, or urpu, has polychrome geometric designs. Its pointed base, strap handles at the sides of the vessel body, and small carrying loops at the outflaring rim are typical of this most quintessentially Inca vessel form. This vessel shape is found in varying sizes, but is a hallmark of the Inca period. Its form was often copied by people who had been conquered by the Incas, who employed their own local ceramic traditions during manufacturing and when applying surface decoration. As in this example, Cusco-Inca urpus are generally smooth-surfaced redwares with fine linear designs, while Provincial Inca vessels exhibit a wider range of surface texture and color treatments.

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