Lost Kingdoms of South America

South America has witnessed the emergence of some of the most intriguing and diverse ancient cultures in the world.

From the tropical Caribbean coast of Colombia to the frozen Andean peaks of Bolivia, the wet cloud forests of the Amazon to the dry deserts of the Atacama in Peru, explore four different pre-Incan cultures and the different pathways they took to social complexity through objects in the British Museum collection.

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  • tortora reed boat
  • Spondylus shell
  • Slingshot
  • Gold tunjo

Objects from South America: tortora reed boat, spondylus shell, slingshot, gold tunjo.

Explore all the featured cultures


Cotton Quipu

Chachapoya literally translates as ‘the people of the clouds’.

More about the Chachapoya 


Copper knife

The Kingdom of Chimor arose in the desert sands of coastal Peru.

More about the Chimu 

Muisca and Tairona

Coca bag

These goldsmiths of Colombia produced spectacular treasures.

More about the Muisca and Tairona 


Boat made from reeds

After almost 2000 years, Tiwanaku is still a focal point in modern Bolivia.

More about Tiwanaku