Didem Doğan

Museo de Arte Pre-Colombina: Chile before Chile

The Pre-Colombian Art Museum is one of the most important, maybe the most important, museum in Santiago; it gathers thousands of pieces that are clue to understanding of the native people of Chile. 

14.000 years before todays modern Chile people were living in these lands. The rich collection of the Museum with ceramic pieces, jewellery, wooden sculptures, musical instruments, the baby mummies, they all are a clue to the cultures, daily lives, beliefs of these people. Even the north of the country which is dry land, desert was inhabited; infact, the Inka Empire, with its Capital in Cusco, governed these lands. Today, in Chile the indian people of Mapuche are still an important minority. 

Starting with the ceramic pieces we understand from different colours and shapes of these ceramics that various indigenous groups differed themselves from each other with their styles. Another important piece is the craft that was used to take drug like herb, today known as ayahuasca. Shamanism was an important ‘institute’ in these peoples’ cultures; the shamans, taking this herb used to pass to a transcendental phase where they could make a journey to a higher level of consciousness. The shamans as well as the chieftains played an important role in these societies. 

There is a percussion instrument at the museum, which is kultrún, a kind of drum, and when you touch to different parts of it you get different sounds. It was a mediating instrument between the humans and the spirits. The shamans were mediating people between these two worlds. The big wooden sculptures were found in the cemeteries and are believed to protect the buried bodies and assist them during their journey to the afterlife. The person with the baton in his hand was someone with power. 

We also find pottery and cups to drink chicha, an alcoholic drink consumed at celebrations. We then see some pieces that look like sun or stars. The observation of the stars must be important as the north of Chile is one of the most closest parts of the earth to the sky and still today the observation centres are located there. One of the most important pieces of the museum is the ‘quipus’; it is an accounting item, used by the Incas, to document data, demographic or else. One big rope on which you see several ropes; this one rope carries 586 ropes with 8 sections of 10 sets, which is said to make 15.000 data!

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