Inca wooden drinking vessel

Peru, late 17th-18th century

This paccha, or wooden drinking vessel,  is cleverly designed to circulate life-giving liquid. The bowl at one end on the puma’s back is used to hold fermented maize beer (chicha).

When tilted upward, the beer passes through a hidden, interior opening into the seated man, whose head is held by the puma’s jaws.

It then comes out from between his legs to run down the zigzag channels on the handle. The painted figures of butterflies and frogs allude to Paititi; a mythical land of eternal abundance.

Collective drinking rituals and drunkeness were thought to provide a glimpse of this invisible paradise behind the harsh realities of everyday life.



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


Length: 48cm

Height: 14.5cm


Museum number



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

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