Keros were originally made in pairs, filled with corn beer or chicha, and exchanged in ritual drinking ceremonies. Drinking from the cups signaled the agreement and reciprocity between two individuals, but in larger ceremonies, individuals drank according to class rank to pledge their societal commitments.
Carved and incised by a once-known Incan maker, this geometrically designed wooden cup retains traces of paint, which suggests Spanish influence on the design. Spanish colonizers first opposed the kero exchange, but they adopted the ceremony to gain Incans’ trust.
However, the colonizers often agreed to promises later broken. Incans likely saw a relationship between their keros and Spaniards’ chalices filled with wine at the Catholic Mass.
From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art
ANTH 23, The Incas, Alan Covey, Spring 2013
ANTH 24, Early Civilizations of the Andes, Alan Covey, Spring 2014
Art History 20.04, Faith and Empire, Beth Mattison, Spring 2023
Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.
Oculate Beings and Horrible Birds: Image and Meaning in Ancient Andean Art, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 30, 1999-November 5, 2000, no. 47.
Ralph C. Altman (1909-1967), Los Angeles, California; by exchange (#101) to present collection, 1955.
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