In 1 250 B.C., ancient Peruvians started to get organized in communities, each with their individual identities. The Cupisnique, Chavín, Salinar, Vicús, Virú and Paracas civilizations evolved on the coastal band, and left behind a legacy of artifacts that appeal to similar themes and concepts, although each of these communities gave them their own characteristic symbolic and esthetic stamp.

In the andes, stone metaphorically represented containment and permitted to preserve the existing order. It delimited the water inside vessels, but also created a contact between different worlds and allowed to preserve reigning order and harmony. Venerated, admired and respected as a living being, stone, aesthetically treated, became a harmonious regulating element.

The natural world is in permanent motion, in a dynamic organized around the division of the universe into the worlds above (hanan pacha), middle (uku pacha), and below (kay pacha) each represented by its own animal symbol: the bird, the snake and the feline, respectively. The steps define the human transit between the three pachas or worlds, and their aesthetic representation appears in countless pieces across all Andean cultures.

Subtle engraved lines draw a head on the recipient of this fine ceramic bottle. The bottle’s neck is at the same time a human neck topped by a head that, turned and with the open mouth, is the tip of the container. In all pre-Hispanic societies, the human head was associated to vital powers, in the understanding that it lodges the senses through which the external reality and life in this world are experienced. Reality is modified, as happens in particularly sophisticated artistic creation processes.

Paracas society emerged in Peru’s south coast. Although its stylistic features differed from those of northern societies, some symbols recur. Access to water and knowledge of natural cycles were also constant concerns for these people, as shown in these jugs. In one, concatenated fish refer us to water and the sea; in the other, staggered symbols with scrolls, allude to the connection between the worlds and their cyclical dynamics. Representations of nature taken to a high level of artistic abstraction.

The plasticity of clay allowed to make extremely realistic objects and containers in the most diverse forms. In this Virú sculptural pitcher that represents a semi-naked male character, facial features and other bodily elements, such as the fingers or the navel, appear in extreme detail, following this society’s stylistic canons. The geometry of the character’s facial features perfectly fits the overall roundness of this piece.