Monday, September 24, 2007

Peruvian Antiquities

"The history of nations, or of the times in which they
flourished, does not interest, simply by showing the degree
of power and culture to which they attained, and the means
by which they were able to subjugate or aggrandize those
who were ruled ; but also, by instructing us in the
progressive steps of commerce, arts, and sciences; those
mighty agents which enlarge the understanding, develop
the riches of nature, remove obstacles, and prepare a
people for the enjoyment of rational liberty." [Preface]

Peruvian Antiquities - frontispiece

Peruvian figures

male and female Peruvian idols

ancient Peruvian jugs

Peruvian antiquities - icon fragments

Idols from Peru

Fossils and fragments from Peru

2 Peruvian idols

ancient Peruvian containers

Altar Idols from Peru

Peruvian mummy

Odd Peruvian skeletons
[click for enlarged versions - the last two images were cropped and or cleaned up and or brightened but they link through to the original images]

In the 1830s and 1840s, Peruvian museum curator Mariano Eduardo de Rivero and Swiss naturalist Dr Johann Jakob von Tschudi undertook a survey of all known relics, ruins, records, bones, artefacts and artworks relating to the pre-Columbian civilisations of Peru.

The resultant 1851 book, 'Antigüedades Peruanas', was a thorough and critical archaeological, ethnographic and anthropological review for its time, although their conclusions about, for instance, racial groupings have been superseded.

They believed that the indigenous peoples could be divided into three groups according to skull shape and anatomy - see the final image above of a mummified infant with a peculiarly elongated cranium (dolichocephaly), an appearance they (say they) saw so often in childhood skeletons that it could only be from an inherited trait and not from any form of mechanical binding or disease/nutrition state.

Their investigations in places such as the mud brick citadel at Chan Chan, near Trujillo, contributed important archaeological data to the body of research on the pre-Incan Chimú Kingdom. Both authors have sites in Chan Chan named after them. And as an extension to his Peruvian studies, Von Tschudi was responsible for the first ever publication of the 15th century Incan dramatic play, 'Apu Ollantay', described as the "most important literary work that has survived in any language indigenous to America".

I am indebted to Andrew for not only uploading a set of 62 images from 'Antigüedades Peruanas', but for making contact to pass on the link and some background information.


Avel Angelica said...


Just want to tell you that your posts are fascinating to me.Books with illustrations are enthralling media.

I discovered your site about a month ago and have been there many times since. The posted illustrations of Ernst Haeckel have inspired me to dust off my old skills and practice.

Thank you for taking me on such a engaging BibiOdyssey.

amanda said...

hello! i happened across this blog in a search for "antiguedades peruanas." i am using this text for part of my dissertation research, and was wondering if you had andrew's contact information? i would love to be able to contact him about his excellent photos of the color plates. you can email me at thanks for posting!

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