National Geographic: Pre-Inca culture one of history’s “great civilizations”

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Pre-Inca gold is on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.The Vice President of Expositions at the National Geographic Society, Kathryn Keane, considers pre-Inca Peru to be “one of the great civilizations of the ancient world, on par with ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and ancient Greece.”

That’s what Keane said today in an interview with Efe about the Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed exhibit currently at the society’s museum in Washington.

“Many people, when they think of Peru, are thinking about the Incas, but there were many civilizations that came before [the Incas]that were just as fascinating and maybe a little lesser known, not as well known,” said Keane.

It’s these civilizations that being celebrated in the Peruvian Gold exhibit, where art pieces made of silver and gold excavated from Peruvian royal tombs are on display. Funerary masks, impressively well-preserved textiles, ceremonial ornaments, jewelry, and ceramic pieces are also part of the exhibit.

The removal of these pieces from Peru required the express authorization of President Ollanta Humala, diplomatic sources told Efe.

In the middle of all the pieces is a monumental headdress, almost a meter long with gold adornments, which is the central piece in this exposition, for which pieces were lent by three Peruvian institutions: The National Sican Museum, the Larco Museum, and Peru’s Central Reserve Bank.

This is the first time that the headdress, which comes from the intermediate Sican period (between 900 and 1100 C.E.), has been displayed in the United States since its discovery in 1991.

“We want to shed some light on this history, direct attention to the great craftworks and iconography in Peruvian art and to talk about archaeology, which is very important,” said Keane, who recognized that National Geographic has been excited to tell stories about Peru for many years.

“We think that Peru is one of the great civilizations of the ancient world, on par with ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and ancient Greece,” added Keane.

“Some of the biggest archaeological sites, of the large architectural structures, of the great pieces of art, and, of course, the most well-known traditions of the ancient world come from Peru,” Keane.

In a recent encounter with journalists, the exhibit’s head archaeologist, Fredrik T. Hiebert, highlighted the extraordinary delicacy of the ceramic vessels bearing human features, all of which are different. “The visitors tend to stop and stand in front of the gold, but, to me, this is the real gold,” said Hiebert, pointing at the refined vessels.

Peruvian Gold: Ancient Treasures Unearthed is the result of a longstanding relationship between Peruvian authorities and National Geographic, which has organized this exhibit in collaboration with the Irving Center for the Arts in Texas, the Peruvian Ministry of Culture, and the Peruvian embassy in Washington.

The exhibition, which opened on April 10, runs until September 14, 2014.

For an interesting look at some of the pieces on display, take a look at this short video with archaeologist Fredrik Hiebert speaking about the special nature of the exhibit.

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