I’m not into many museums. While I see their worth and value, I typically have a very hard time getting into them. In spite of my general lack of enthusiasm and excitement for them, I still occasionally visit ones that sound different or are world-renowned.
I decided to visit Larco Museum in Lima, Peru. This museum is a collection of Inka artifacts from around Peru. Basically it’s a museum of ancient Inka pottery. The museum itself is small and only takes me an hour to breeze through. I feel like I’m looking at a bunch of clay pots, oh wow. It’s not doing much for me. I get they are 500 years old as I struggle to get engaged with their significance.
Then I come into a section labeled erotic pottery. My interest is piqued as I roam through halls of graphic clay pots. A women with her legs spread wide and her umm privates stretched wide. Another a little boy jerking himself off, a guy receiving a blow job, a women getting fingered, and others in all sorts of graphic sexual positions. It’s graphic enough to make those a bit bashful feel ashamed. I’m wondering was this the Inka form of porn or is there some other significance to the creation of these exotic clay pots?
Outside the porn I find the pieces on Quipus the most interesting. Quipus were the main system employed by the Incas to record information. Knotted cords were used to record countable information. The colors, knots, and the distances between the knots enabled those who used the quipus to identify the type of object or the characteristics of the population being counted.
The quipus record systems was very important for the Inca Empire as it was sustained by labor of the people. While voluntary it wasn’t always so voluntary. Short of slavery, many worked the taxes they owed through their labor. The Inca used specialist officials to handle this information, and they were known as quipucamayocs.
A Quipus was formed by a primary cord and hanging cords from it. It was based on the decimal system. They were usually made from cotton, although some were made from Alpaca or Llama fibers. Some quipus also had set distances between groups of cords which enabled the user to distinguish between different categories of data. The knots which were positioned along the length of cords could represent single units or tens of thousands of units depending on the colors of the cords, the structures of the threads, and the knots used. Thus it was possible to distinguish between information dealing with population, men, and women, type of work, and production. I wonder how they recorded the legend of what each color, knot, etc represented? Or was this something simply passed down to an apprentice and known by memory?
For a population which had no written language, the quipus seems quite advanced to me. And actually it makes the abacus look like an easier counting method.
I leave the Larco museum a little more enthused than when I first arrived, but I think that’s due to the unexpected pottery porn. If you’re ever in Lima, it’s up to you if this is your thing or not. If you do go, it’s small and you’ll be there no more than a couple of hours. Even me who tends to hate museums could read everything they had in that time.