Peru: A Journey in Time at the British Museum. This new exhibition offers a rare opportunity to view objects and artefacts – some made two thousand years ago. The portraits are stunning, the fabrics are beautifully preserved and some of the stories which these objects tell shed light on a long-lost civilisation.

These are human portrait pottery vessels. To me they look like portraits of real people. The artist has really looked at the faces of people around him and I’m entirely prepared to believe that they are of real people, leaders or important figures in the region. They’re dated between 100 – 800 AD. It’s rare to find such early portraits made by artists who have really studied their subject’s faces.

Charming pottery vessels. One is of a sleeping warrior with an elaborate nose ring, the other is a musician playing a flute. Considering they are dated from 100-600 AD I’m amazed by the way they have survived intact and we can see such detailed paintwork on them.

The potters who created these figures are abstract artists and also story-tellers. The terrifying fish vessel on the right is carrying prisoners to the place where they will be sacrificed. There are several examples of sacrifice, sometimes of children, which is very disturbing. The friendly looking deer was believed to have healing and magical properties. And the little figure on the left is a musician.

I liked this scene of ritual celebration with music. The figures are women, which is reassuring that they were represented in art as well as the men. It’s also good to see that they are enjoying an alcoholic drink made from fermented purple maize while they make music. This is painted pottery from Nasca, 100BC – AD650.

A massive ceremonial pot with mythical scenes. It’s not very pleasant. There’s a corpse, and severed heads along with strange snake-like creatures. Clearly life in Peru two thousand years ago was pretty terrifying and full of warriors you would not want to mess with.

These are coca leaves from Brazil from the 20th century. They were found in a specially woven bag. Chewing coca leaves was a key part of Inca and Wari life. They contain an intoxicant that reduced altitude sickness and were also used as offerings when meeting new people.

Fascinating stuff. Peru: a journey in time is on at the British Museum until 20th February 2022.

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