Andean Drinking Vessels

Andean Drinking Vessels


The large metal cups known as aquillas and the wooden ones known as queros were important ceremonial vessels for drinking chicha (corn beer). Always produced in pairs, they were used by the Inca in ritual ceremonies to cement social and political relationships. In colonial times polychrome wooden queros were decorated with a colored substance called mopa-mopa extracted from a tropical plant. The head-shaped queros may be a reference to the facial decoration of warriors of the Antisuyu (the tropical eastern slope of the Andes), as well as to "trophy heads": it was standard practice at the end of battles to behead enemies and turn their heads into drinking vessels. Llamas assumed a religious significance for the Inca, as their fiber was integral in the production of Inca textiles, while jaguars were venerated for their magnificence and power. 

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Image: Quero in the Shape of a Jaguar Head, Peru, 17th–18th century; wood, pigmented resin, iron, silver brass; dimensions: 8 7/8 x 6 1/2 in. (22.5 x 16.5 cm); diameter: 6 2/5 in. (16.5 cm); Courtesy of the National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 10/5860; Photo by Ernest Amoroso.