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Cultural Traces Around the World

Peruvian Traditional Arts and Crafts, Part 1 of 2

2022-01-26
Language:English

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The country of Peru is located in the Southern Hemisphere with the Pacific Ocean on the West and the longest continental mountain range in the world, the Andes Mountain, running through it. It is home to several ancient civilizations, from the Norte Chico civilization that started around 3,500 BC to the glorious Inca Empire that ended in the 16th century. Throughout this long span of time, numerous forms of arts and crafts have been invented by the Peruvian people and passed on from generation to generation. Important artifacts have been found in the country’s many archaeological sites, such as Machu Pichu, Chancay, Paracas, Mochica, Chimú and Lambayaque.

The ancient Peruvian artisans made use of precious stones and other minerals that occur naturally in the region. The materials were often associated with spiritual meanings. Gold represented the Sun God and symbolized power; therefore, only kings were privileged enough to wear it. Silver represented the Moon’s tears. The carvings of animal-people, humans, plants, and shapes were also meaningful. The condor-people were associated with the celestial body that was believed to accompany human souls as they moved onto the next world. The puma-people symbolized life on Earth, while the snake-people symbolized the underworld. The spiral design represented evolution, while the quadrant of the cross named “chakana” represented the four elements: fire, water, earth, and air. Geometric designs like the circle represented endlessness, and triangles were representations of the spiritual and material universe. An outstanding example of ancient Peruvian creativity is the Nazca Lines, a group of hundreds of lines carved into the surface of the Earth to form shapes, called geoglyphs.

The Incas were a non-literate culture, so they passed down their knowledge and traditions through the generations orally. Visual art was used to record scenes from their daily life, as well as their thoughts and feelings. Through carvings and sculptures, the stories of these ancient civilizations along with their cultures and traditions, can be understood. One of the best examples of an ancient sculpture found in Peru is the Sayhuite (Sigh-weetey) Monolith. Another magnificent stone carving with spiritual insights is the “Intihuatana,” which means “the place where the Sun was held” in the Quechua language.

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