Friday, October 7, 2011

Ceramics and Sacrifices at Museo Larco Lima


Lima was a bright, exciting blur. A tour guide yelled at me, threatening to call the police and confiscate my camera. I gawked at pre-Columbian ceramics depicting the entire spectrum of sex acts. Got caught in a crowd of Catholic worshipers in the Plaza Mayor, some following the Christ procession on their knees and in purple robes. I feel like a lone adventurer vine-swinging through the city.
First stop was the Museo Larco. Larco was a millionaire’s son with an affinity to pre-Columbian archaelogy. More than just a rich boy though, he went on to discover several civilizations dated before the Incas, including the Moches. The museum used to be his mansion: a beautiful sprawling white building draped in bright flowers and languid vines. I accidentally stumbled on the erotic exhibit before finding the real entrance. I decided to leave the erotic exhibit for last so that I could build up my maturity level :) One of the first rooms is the immaculate storage area of the museum’s entire archive of ceramics. The main exhibit astounded me with its sensible curating and ultra-professional presentation. It outlined the many overlapping civilizations of Peru over the last 2000 years. The Moches I found out created ceramics with true likenesses of their leaders, unlike other groups. Their empire collapsed though thanks to El Nino in the 1600s. Not only did it drown their irrigation system but the population lost faith in the religious and political leaders who were supposed to be preventing all this with their ceremonies and sacrifices. And many sacrifices there were, they usually picked the strongest human specimens for the honor. Warriors would battle to be sacrificed. I wondered if any of them threw the game to avoid the “honor.”

Blunt knives were on display as representations of the blood-letting. They would drain the sacrifices’ blood into ceremonial cups, unclear if the priests drank it. Shiny things are always attractive so I moved on to the gold exhibit. Silver buttons, giant earrings that required piercings the size of a child’s fist, gold breast-plates, headdresses and the ancient version of Flava Fav’s gold grills lined the museum walls. I thought I had seen enough but then there was Larco’s erotic exhibit, which must be the most extensive collection of pre-Columbian porn in the world! There was a quote on the wall from Larco justifying that he wanted to study how they sexual lives related to society and religious ceremonies so he was only seeing it from the archaeologist’s perspective. Right.

Every variation of sexual acts was depicted many times over in these ceramic jugs. Some just used the shape of genitals as convenient models for spouts or openings. As I learned, everything we’re doing now has been done since the dawn of time. We humans really aren’t that creative! I had a quick lunch in their garden restaurant, which just like the museum, was an elegant white draped in vines. And I was off to the Monastery of San Francisco in the historical center of Lima.