A new exhibition opening later this year at the British Museum will see a host of objects loaned by Peruvian museums coming to the UK, many of which have never been seen in this country before.

Over 40 objects – some dating from over 3,000 years ago – will go on show alongside around 80 other pieces from the British Museum’s collection in the museum’s first major exhibition on Peru.

The exhibition aims to show that Peru is so much more than just Paddington Bear and Peruvian Pan Pipe buskers on weekend trips to town centres, and so much more than just the Spanish conquest of the Incas, which for most of us is pretty much all we learn about in school.

The objects on display will range from the Chavin in 1200 BCE, up to the fall of the Incas in AD 1532, and will show how while the Incas are the most famous society from ancient Peru, they were a relatively recent people with a long line of ancestors.

Highlights among the objects coming from Peru include a 2,500-year-old gold headdress and pair of ear plates which were part of an elite burial found at the site of Kuntur Wasi, Cajamarca. They are decorated with embossed motifs of human faces with feline fangs and snakes’ appendages. Also making the journey to the British Museum is a ceremonial drum from around 100 BCE – AD 650 featuring a depiction of the capture of defeated enemies in ritual combat, one of the principal scenes of the Nasca people’s worldview.

Painted pottery vessel in the form of awarrior holding a club and a shield, Peru, Moche AD 100–600. (c) 2021 The Trustees of the British Museum

The oldest object on loan will be a ceremonial vessel from the Cupisnique culture, which flourished along what is now Peru’s northern Pacific coast, and is thought to date from up to 1200 BCE. It is in the shape of a contorted human body, possibly representing someone born with a disease that causes symptoms such as loose joints and unusual flexibility, which was a revered ability in this culture.

Gold alloy and shell ear plates with feline features, Peru,800–550 BC. Museo Kuntur Wasi

The exhibition, Peru: a journey in time is at the British Museum from 11th Nov 2021 to 20th Feb 2022. Open daily and late on Fridays to 8:30pm. Adult tickets £15, under 16s free, 2-for-1 tickets for students on Fridays, and concessions and group rates available.

Tickets need to be booked in advance from here.

The exhibition is being timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the country’s independence from Spain, and is being supported by Peru’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism.


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