The precolumbian ceramics gallery
The MIC has a rich collection, partly on display and partly in storage, of the testimonies of numerous pre-Columbian civilizations. These are mostly ceramics, with a fairly significant presence of other materials (fabrics, metalwork, stone, wood and shell artifacts). The pieces in the collection come from nine of the seventeen areas into which the American continent is divided on archaeological and cultural grounds. Many of these are displayed in seven cases divided by area, plus a case study display and two drawers. The displays are supplemented by panels and captions located on the sides of the windows and over the drawers, which explore specific cultural elements with the aid of drawings, short texts and iconographic reproductions. Visitors are thus helped to explore the region’s plants, animals, activities, deities, rituals, symbols, open and hidden meanings, decorative elements and techniques. The pre-Columbian people lived in a fascinating natural environment which stimulated their way of thinking and creativity in material, social and spiritual ways. The first showcase displays sculpture and painting of non-ceramic materials and weaving. Noteworthy are a remarkable Inca wooden vase decorated with colours, an Incan interwoven head with Pachamama (Mother Earth), the head of a wooden Chancay mummy mask (fardo), a trumpet from Peru made from a shell and a zoomorphic millstone for corn from Costa Rica. With the second showcase we enter the civilizations of central Mesoamerica (Mexico and Guatemala). The oldest cultures are represented by figurines and vases, some bottle-shaped dating from the 13th century BC to the 4th century AD. These give way to successive productions of the classical period with the typical figurative ceramics and other shapes belonging to Teotihuacan, Zapotec, Huastech, Veracruz and Maya, from the 4th to 10th centuries. Complete the overview ceramics of the Mixtec and Aztec Postclassical civilizations (10th-16th centuries) with characteristic tripod vessels, cups and figurines. The third showcase is still dedicated to Mesoamerican area, but to its more peripheral cultures. These include the rich production of Western Mexico (Chupicuaro, Nayarit, Colima, Jalisco, with realistic figures), El Salvador, Nicaragua and the perfect forms of northern Costa Rica, spanning a period from the third to the sixteenth century. Also displayed here is the Casas Grandes polychrome production (11th-14th centuries) which belong culturally to the Western Desert of the United States. The fourth showcase displays ceramics from less well-known areas, with a panoramic view stretching from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries. Cultures included are: the Amazon, with characteristic elements of the regional culture and Marajoara Tapajoara (figurines, urns covers and thongs), the Caribbean, with a Valencia figurine and a Taino ocarina, the Southern Andes, with vessels, fragments and spindle whorls from Bolivia, northwestern Argentina and Chile, and the Pampas, with a few Guarani fragments. The fifth and sixth showcases are dedicated to Peru with its mosaic of civilizations producing vascular and figurative ceramics with high-expressiveness and colouring. Included are artifacts of the Chavin, Paracas, Viru, Vicus, Recuay, Nasca, Mochica, Wari and post-Wari, Sican, Cajamarca, Chancay, Chimu and Inca cultures. These cover almost all Peruvian archaeological periods, from the most ancient to the European Conquest, through a period that extends from the sixth century BC to the 16th century AD. Characteristic are wares with stirrup-shaped necks, double spouts with handle, portrait and whistling vases, pictorial or sculptural depictions, naturalistic or stylised. The last two showcases, the seventh and eighth, exhibit ceramics from intermediate areas. These include figurines, ocarinas, characteristic tripod vases and incense burners from Costa Rica and polychrome ceramics with representations of fishes from Panama. Then follow artifacts from Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador including figurines with arms outstretched, polychrome ceramics with tripods and pedestals with positive and negative decoration; covering periods between the 21st century BC (Valdivia, Ecuador) and the 16th century AD. At the end of the itinerary, two drawers contain Peruvian textiles, both intact and in fragments. Drawer A contains a chronological subdivision of artifacts (Paracas, Nazca, Ica-Pachacamac, Chancay Tricolor and Chancay, Ica-Chincha, Chimu and Inca, from the 4th century BC to the 16th century AD. Drawer B emphasizes topics related to textile technology and pre-Columbian clothing; visitors can see multicolored fabrics - painted and embroidered, one headgear, certain types of clothes and belts.