Unlike most U.S. elementary schools at the time, my school taught foreign languages. From fourth through eighth grade (and into high school,) I took Spanish. At some point when I was 11 or 12, we studied the great Central and South American cultures of the Aztec, Maya, and Inca. The Inca, rulers in Peru until the early-1500s, builders of the great city of Machu Picchu, captured my imagination.
In the last few years, Jim and I have known at least four people who traveled to Peru, and specifically to Machu Picchu. Stories of their adventures rekindled my long-held desire to go there. Certainly, for a trek like that, you should go while you’re still physically able. And so we did.
We traveled in a group tour with Overseas Adventure Travel and can’t recommend it highly enough. The group was small, with 14 travelers and our trip leader, Walter. He is an experienced guide with 15 years’ experience leading tours. He has a background as a history professor, and he has authored books on the archeological sites in Peru. We were in good hands. We’ll have a number of posts about different parts of our trip. This one highlights some of the ancient textiles and ceramics we saw in Lima.
On the first day when our group met Walter, I said that, as a quilter, I’m interested in textiles. He suggested seeing the A Mano textile museum. (Translated from Spanish, “A Mano” means “by hand.”) That afternoon while we had free time, Jim and I set off on foot to find the museum.
Unfortunately, though I had seen the museum on a map and had a pretty good idea of where it was, it wasn’t on the map we had. And we didn’t have a street address for it. We stopped several times to ask for directions, using my best grade school Spanish. At one point we walked all the way around it. But finally we were directed to the correct place.
It was worth the trek. And as it turns out, the name is “Amano Museo Textil PreColombino,” not “A Mano.” The museum is named for Mr. Yoshitaro Amano, a Japanese businessman who founded it in 1964 after settling in Peru.
More than 600 pre-Columbian (pre-1492) textiles are displayed, as well as significant pottery pieces. The textiles in the collection range from around 3,000 years old to more than 500 years old. To preserve the fragile pieces, lighting is quite dim. Information with the items was sometimes lengthy and informative, and other times non-existent. I did not get pictures of the placards, so have little to offer. However, it’s important to note that not all Indian culture in Peru was Incan, even when the Europeans arrived in Peru, so it would be incorrect to say these are all Inca pieces.
Both cotton and wool form the tradition of Peruvian textiles. Cotton was grown all over the world; wool comes from the various camelids but especially alpaca and llama. Much of the weaving and knotting is representative, conveying important people and animals in the society. Other works are more geometric. This delicate netting combines the two.
The tiny pieces of embroidery below remind me of the masks and faces I showed you in September, from the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Each of them is about the size of a half-dollar coin. Click on any photo to open the gallery and see them bigger.
There are a number of animal motifs that are historically important to Peru. Snakes, puma (mountain lions or cougars), condors, other birds, and monkeys all show up repeatedly. Here are some other woven works that have representations of humans or other animals. Click on any photo to open the gallery and see them bigger.
Besides the representational pieces, there were a number of geometrically-designed, large cloths. Here are two of them. The dim light makes it hard to feel the impact of seeing them in person. Again, click on either to see them enlarged.
The final gallery room was the darkest. On tall cases against the wall were three-dimensional forms that looked like pillows (cushions.) Because the labeling within the museum was sporadic, it’s possible these were contemporary and not ancient. I don’t know! Each was about 18″ across. The noses were stuffed and protruding from the surface. The fabrics looked like rough cotton or linen. On the right figure, the eyes were metal plates.
On Day 2 of our trip, we visited the National Museum of Archeology, Anthropology, and History. There were more textiles to view and a large collections of ceramics. Again, Jim and I tended to take photos of the pottery that conveyed faces and animal figures. Here are a few of my favorites animals, in a range of styles.
And a few with men.
Finally, here is a gold guy. Actually it is a mask and breastplate in solid gold. This gallery was safely tucked into the basement of the museum. I liked this figure primarily because it reminds me of the cotton “pillow” faces we saw the day before at the Amano museum.
We have more information about our first two days on Our View From Iowa. As we have more time to process our thoughts and our photos, we’ll share them with you there. Follow us on Our View to get notifications of new posts. Thanks for going along with this quick trip through some ancient ceramics and textiles in Lima, Peru!