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Jaguar head kero

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Dated: 1501-1600

Cultural Context: Inca-Colonial style.

Origin: Department of Cuzco (Peru, South America)

Medium: Wood, Pigment, Resin

Technique: Carved, Cast, Incised, Painted, Varnished

Dimensions: Height = 22 cm; Base: Maximum diameter = 14.5 cm

Inventory no.: 07508

This kero, or ceremonial vessel, is made of wood representing the head of an open-mouthed jaguar or puma. The artistic conventions and interpretative abstraction in the execution of the characteristic spots of this feline, as well as the great profusion of designs, give the piece a variegated appearance that fits perfectly with Inca aesthetics. In Peru, since ancient times the jaguar has been linked with atmospheric phenomena that aid agricultural fertility. It is also the quintessential Andean symbol of power and grandeur, often closely associated with Inca nobility.

Keros were, in essence, ceremonial vessels. In festivals and celebrations marked by the ritual calendar, these vessels were used for libations of chicha, the main Andean ritual drink, made from fermented maize. Although the production of keros reached its peak during the Inca Empire, it already had a long tradition in the Andes, and truncated cone-shaped vessels have been recorded in cultures from the Middle Horizon, such as the Tiawanaku and Huari. The production of keros continued during the colonial period, incorporating greater decorative elaboration around floral and heraldic motifs and scenes of daily life, ceremonies, dances and legends.