Machu Picchu and the golden empires of Peru

Golden headdresses, funerary masks, ceremonial objects imbued with power… It is a journey through time and to the mythical cultures that the exhibition offers, to the sound of the roar of jaguars and colorful birds.”Machu Picchu and the golden empires of Peru.. From April 16, 2022, the City of Architecture and Heritage, Place du Trocadero in Paris, will truly offer an immersive museum experience, getting into the heart of the enigmatic Andean societies that have dominated much of South America for 3,000 years.

Inca Citadel Machu Picchu, Peru. Credits: World Heritage Exhibitions

If the citadel of Machu Picchu, discovered in 1911 northwest of Cuzco, and the Inca Empire (1438-1533), stretching from present-day Argentina to southern Colombia until the Spanish conquest in 1533, are convened “as leader losses” with their impressive architectural achievements in the middle of the mountains, these are, first of all, about 192 exceptional objects, originating from the royal tombs of several pre-Columbian societies, whose heirs were the Incas, which in fact concentrate the exhibits. “If we talk about the Incas, they represent only 80 years of the history of pre-Hispanic Peru., recalls archaeologist Carol Fraresso, curator of the exhibition. Most of the treasures exhibited in Paris, for the first time outside of Peru, were provided by the Larco Museum in Lima, as well as the Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballon Museum in Aguas Calientes, Peru. The complete golden parure of Lord Chimu, dated to 1300 AD, is thus one of the highlights of the exhibition.

Chimu imperial gold burial dowry (AD 1100–1470). Credit: Larco Museum, Lima, Peru.

Organized by the World Heritage Exhibition (WHE), an exhibition co-produced with Singapore-based Cityneon Holding, the exhibition features an introductory film depicting the majestic rainforest that serves as a backdrop for the presentation of the site of Machu Picchu, the Inca Empire, and the rich remnants of the Andean societies that they were preceded.

In addition, the crossing of the Inca portico signifies the separation of the various thematic spaces of the 1000-meter complex.2 exhibition-, gives access to the first room. There, ceramics with detailed decoration, through animated murals, allow us to explore the fundamental concepts that underlie the cosmic vision of the societies of ancient Peru. First of all, duality, whether it be male and female, human and animal, birth and rebirth, sun and moon, day and night, or up and down. But also the tripartite universe with the upper world, the heavenly kingdom of the gods, inhabited by the forces of nature, water and the sun, symbolized by a bird; the underground underworld, the domain of the dead and ancestors, where the serpent lurks; and here and now, the intermediate world of the living, providing a link between the other two universes. So many characteristic elements of ancient Andean societies.

A gold and silver ceremonial bowl expressing the duality underlying the cosmic vision of the ancient Peruvians. Credits: Larco Museum, Lima Peru.

Constant renewal of the cycle of life

The activities of people, depending on the favor of the gods and ancestors, rituals and ceremonies had to be constantly organized. Often accompanied by the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances, they were intended to facilitate transformations in order to be able to travel and communicate between the worlds of the gods and ancestors and thus ensure the constant renewal of the cycle of life. Become a jaguar to see like a jaguar. To embody this universe on three levels, which ensures longevity and continuity of cycles, the symbol of the level, which you can merrily look for on objects, is encoded on ceramics or jewelry, whether they belong to Nazca, Chaven. , Huari or Inca. The figure of three steps indicates the ability to move between the three worlds at the center of all Andean cosmology. Some items associated with shamanistic rituals, such as mortars and pestles for preparing the pulp of the San Pedro cactus (Echinopsis plowed), or crush the vinesayahuasca presented. As well as an impressive rock crystal necklace belonging to a shaman, linking the visible and invisible worlds. The black ceramic Andean dragon with turquoise-encrusted eyes and shells is reminiscent of the shaman’s transformation into a powerful hybrid creature.

Little known to the public, the erotic pottery of the Mochica, depicting ancestors with disproportionate sexes, also shows how, through the restoration of seminal fluids, the ancestors also actively fertilized the soil, including from their underworld or underworld.

Funeral mask depicting the face of the hero Ai Apaek. Credits: Larca Museum, Lima, Peru.

Legend of Ai Apaek

In another gallery Ai Apaek, the cat-toothed hero of the Mochica (or Mochica – pronounced mot-che) culture that stretched along the northern coast of Peru, leads the visitor to an understanding of a very special universe in this region of the world, where the ever-changing cycles of the transformation of the forces of nature, life, death and rebirth, and where nothing is ever fixed. Through the legend of the terrible Ai Apaek and his oceanic adventures told on pottery or bowls, all stages of this demiurge’s life are evoked through decorations depicting his search for the sun that disappeared in the depths of the ocean. A star that he must return in order to preserve the order of the world and nature. In an ongoing effort to aid understanding, videos embedded in windows or projected onto walls allow visitors to better understand the meaning of the works.

The exhibition also depicts the sacrificial universe of the ancient Peruvians and the ceremonies meant to propitiate and honor the gods. Noble warriors had to participate in ritual fights. The losers are then transformed into sacred beings, sacrificed to breathe new life into the community. To explain these treatments, the sacrificial altar was reconstructed. As the visit continues, the containers, modeled in ceramic or cast in metal, gradually give way to a very impressive wooden idol discovered at Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimu Empire. Located in the center of a small hall, it presents a room dedicated to the luxurious gold and silver jewelry worn by the rulers of Peru, a real highlight of the exhibition.

Exceptional Silver Jewelry of the Chimu Lords (1100-1470 AD)

The presented set of headdresses made of precious metals, earrings, necklaces and chest coverings is literally amazing. Shining under the light, the gold jewelry, unique in the world, belongs to the dignitary Chim. All these priceless objects, which survived the looting and devastation of the gold smelter by the Spaniards, are also rare testimonies that have come down to us, the know-how of pre-Columbian jewelers. The exhibition then ends with the Incas and their creations, as well as a number of remains recently discovered during the archaeological digs carried out at Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Inca Quipu (1438-1532 AD). People who did not write, the Incas actually developed an original system of communication using mnemonic devices: the quipu. It was a kind of necklace, consisting of a main cord, to which were attached many knotted cords hanging down. According to a certain code of ligatures, these nodes made it possible to store information. Credit: Larco Museum, Lima, Peru.

After the visit is over – provided you have purchased a special ticket – a virtual reality (VR) experience is offered, allowing visitors, equipped with a high-definition VR headset, seated in special chairs, to experience the thrill of an unforgettable visit above the ruins of Machu Picchu. Designed to attract a very wide audience, this exotic exhibition will run until September 4, 2022.

3000 years of civilization. Timeline of major societies of pre-Columbian Peru

Chaven: 1250-200 BC.

Nazca: 300 BC – 650 AD

Mochica: 100-800 AD AD

Huari: 600–1300 AD

Chimu: 900-1470 AD

April 16 to September 4, 2022

Gallery of temporary exhibitions
City of architecture and heritage
1 place Trocadero
75016 Paris

Open every day from 10:00 to 19:00 (last admission at 17:30)

Attention rates and special booking conditions for this exhibition
Full price: 22 euros / 24 euros, access to the exhibition and quest.
Child rates (from 4 to 14 years old): 18€ / 20€
Children (- 4 years old): free

Cost of the virtual reality experience: 15€

Tickets are not sold in the City.

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