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I had the pleasure this week of viewing my 3rd exhibition this year of amazing artifacts, predominantly gold, this time from Peru; the other two were from Afghanistan and Colombia. What a visual feast I have enjoyed! It has made me wonder that artisans were working with gold in both Afghanistan and South America at roughly the same time creating intricate and precious pieces that would be difficult to rival even now. The artifacts from Peru feature the distinct symbols of that region, snakes representing the underworld where the dead dwell, cats representing the land we walk on, and birds representing the sky where the gods live. Interestingly, even though I spent an entire month travelling in Peru in 2003 I saw very little of the kinds of treasures that have now travelled to Australia for this exhibition. The Spanish conquistadors did their best to loot Peru of its riches but a wealth of remarkable art remains, mostly excavated from tombs and sites ranging in age from the Chavin (1500-200 BC) to the Inca (1400-1533 AD).
I actually think that the organisers chose a misleading name because no Incan gold is present in the exhibition because so little remains in Peru after the Spanish invasion and occupation. The exhibition is very well curated and laid out chronologically and by region and cultural group. It is suitable for children and my daughter was given an activity book with a magnifying glass to follow the exhibition and there is a fabulous family room filled with activities and we easily spent 45 minutes in there. The exhibition contains pieces of exquisite stone carving, weaving, metalworking and ceramics from many different regions of Peru, including:
The Moche people dominated the northern coast of Peru for more than 600 years by conquering neighbouring cultures and taking captives for ceremonial beheadings and there are several depictions of beheadings on stirrup vessels in the exhibition. I was very glad that my 6 year old daughter did not linger long enough in front of these amazing decorated and sculptural ceramics to figure out what was depicted or why! The Moche also depicted sexually explicit scenes on their ceramics and it amused me to read that one interpretation of the purpose of the phallic jugs was to amuse people because when filled with liquid and poured it suggests ejaculation;