Inca beaker with dance scene

Peru, late 17th-18th century

The dance of the Ch’unchus is a recurring theme on colonial keros or beakers such as this one.

The Ch’unchus were held to be a ferocious tribe living in lowland Amazonia and the guardians of the legendary lands and cities such as Paititi or El Dorado.

The theme follows a carefully prescribed layout: the dancers appear in single file, with a flag bearer at the front of the group carrying a large banner patterned with multi-coloured squares. Behind the flag-bearer are two musicians playing the bugle and tambourine.

There is always one native African – by this time they had already been brought to the Americas. In procession behind the musicians are dancers with feather headresses, large tunics or unkus, below which they wear trousers. Only the musicians wear Spanish attire. Flowers and small animals such as parrots, macaws or small snakes – complete the harvest festival celebration scene.



From their capital, Cuzco, in Peru, the Inca controlled a huge empire reaching over 2,400 miles along the length of the Andes mountains. The supreme head of state was the king, considered a living god ruling by divine right.

Incas world culture

Inca ushnus

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More information


Colin McEwan, Ancient American Art in Detail (London, The British Museum Press, 2009)


Inca colonial


Height: 20.5 cm


Museum number



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This object features in A History of the World in 100 objects

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