March 1, 2017
This type of Inca ceramic vessel from the Peruvian Andes is known by a variety of names. Often referred to as aryballos (or aribalos in Spanish) because of their similarity to jars of the same name used in ancient Greece, they are also known as Cuzco bottles or urpus in the indigenous Quechua. Dating from the 15th to early 16th century, these containers were used to store and transport chicha, a fermented corn beer, as well as water and other foods. To transport the vessels, ropes were pulled through the handles and wrapped around the central lug, which is marked with a stylized animal face, allowing the container to be easily carried on one’s back. The two rings under the lip of the jar originally held a cover in place, while its pointed base allowed it to stand upright when set into the earth. Incan aryballos are almost always decorated with polychromatic geometric designs like this one. You can currently view this container in Professor Deacon’s Cultural Cabinet.