Pre-Columbian, Southern Peru, Inca hinterlands (Chucu), ca. 1000 to 1500 CE. A rare ceramic plaque of a sizable triangular form with a lightly-concave obverse face. The front is painted with two distinct panels of geometric motifs in a palette of red, white, yellow, and blue hues atop a pale-orange ground. The topmost panel displays a dense checkerboard-pattern motif, and the bottom shows a series of wavy parallel lines on the right side and concentric V-shaped forms on the left below a fretted panel. Plaques like this example were placed as offerings to Pacha Mama and Pacha Papa (Mother and Father Earth) to protect the health of the livestock and the human inhabitants of the clan. Custom suspension hook attachment included. Size: 14.7" W x 19.5" H (37.3 cm x 49.5 cm).
These plaques were made by smashing large vessels and painting the fragments. They have been discovered in a number of different contexts: beneath wall foundations, in graves, with animal sacrifices, and cached in prominent places in the landscape, like in springs, rock hollows, and atop hills. They are often discovered in pairs, with the painted surfaces placed so that they are facing each other, sometimes wrapped in leaves or even gold sheet. Although the tablet tradition began centuries before, the time period that this one comes from represents the height of the tablet tradition, and corresponds to an intensification of agriculture, the rise of interregional trade networks, and the ascendancy of certain important confederations of clans. Amidst this potent mix, the Inca expanded into the region and the tablet tradition abruptly ended. It seems likely that the Inca, who colonized regions in part by sponsoring local ritual activities, outlawed the creation of religious tablets like this because they saw them as a threat to their trade in sacrificial alpacas, corn beer, and cloth.
Provenance: private Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private Hillberg collection, Sonoma County, California, USA, acquired between 1960 and 1970
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Small chips to peripheries and verso, with light fading to areas of original pigmentation, and light encrustations, otherwise intact and very good. Light earthen deposits and nice traces of original pigmentation throughout.