For the Incas and their descendants, the Quechua, pottery has played and continues to play an important part of life.
Of the two main types
of Inca clay pottery designs -
- found in Incan ruins and excavations, the most sought after ceramic pieces are those known as Huacos.
From the time of the Spanish conquistadores, these artifacts, the Huacos, have been unearthed in various Inca ruins and sites of other cultures in Peru.
Inca pottery served two purposes; utilitarian ceramics used for everyday
purposes and, very separate, ceremonial vessels for rituals and burials.
Although many pieces have a glazed look to the surface, it appears that the clay pottery designs have been highly polished to achieve a shine rather than glazed under heat.
No evidence has been found that the Incas used an actual glazing process as known to modern ceramic artists.
Inca potters used thicker, denser clay for the larger ceremonial pots and plates, while smaller ceremonial vessels (huacos) were made of more delicate material, resembling today's clay pottery designs.
Pottery in Inca life served two purpose; first, that used for practical daily use and, second, that used for ceremonies and rituals.
Ceremonial pottery was never used in daily household use and vice versa. One type was never used for the other.
The ceremonial vessel of Andean life most known to archaeologists since the time of the Spanish conquest is the Huaco.
Another type of clay pottery design used by the Incas and neighboring
cultures for their ornamental vessels are the earthenware pieces known
These Aribalos, slender and finely ornamented ceramic objects and obviously a costly luxury, were used for more practical or utilitarian purposes, such as for perfume, and thus not classified as Huacos.
In the ancient times of the Inca Empire, ceremonial pottery was buried
along with the bodies or mummies of middle and upper-class dead.
These were typically closed pots or containers filled with food or drink that would serve the dead on their way to the other world.
When the Spanish conquistadores arrived and put an end to the Inca culture, the Inca "Huaco" and other sacred pottery lost its religious and ceremonial role and became simply utilitarian, objects for use in daily life.
Today, of course, pottery of all sizes and shapes is being produced and used constantly by the Andean peoples.
Excellent pottery can be purchased in various areas of Peru, not only the southern Andes (Catacaos area of N. Coastal Peru, for example).