< Back to Permanent Exhibition

Ritual Warfare and Music

Room 9

In today’s world wars are motivated by political, territorial and economic interests. Nobody goes to war in gold and silver outfits, jewelry and crowns. The function of combat gear is to protect combatants and make them less vulnerable.

However, in their art pre-Columbian cultures represented warriors prepared for and participating in battle wearing luxurious clothing and adornments. Some of these items are not particularly functional in the context of an activity which requires movement, speed and efficiency when attacking. These adornments were used as religious and status symbols during combat which served a ceremonial function.

Human warriors fought as the gods of mythology did. Some of these gods fought on land or sea; they fought to defeat the night and restore daylight, and they fought to connect the world of the heavens with the earthly world through rainfall. This combat culminated in blood sacrifices in honor of one of the major gods. The greatest sacrifice of all was offered in exchange for the future wellbeing of society as a whole.

In a territory like the Andes, the cycles of nature are not always regular. The forces of nature might be expressed in extraordinary events such as earthquakes. The rains might not come or, on the other hand, they might last for too long due to the effects of the El Niño phenomenon. For this reason, ritual combats and sacrifices designed to restore lost order were performed on a regular basis.

In today’s world music forms part of our festivities, social and family gatherings and religious celebrations. Music stimulates our perception and places us in the right state of mind for spiritual experience. It enables us to display our emotions, feelings, desires and personal and communal ways of thinking. In all cultures it has been the medium through which humanity connects with the immaterial world.

Dance is another form of nonverbal communication which predates culture, for many animals also use dance. Since time immemorial, human beings have created choreographies with the movement of their bodies. Dances tell stories and demonstrate joy, sadness, desires or gratitude.

In Andean societies, music and dance have always been present. Ceremonies associated with the worship of water, processions and pilgrimages to sacred places, preparations for ritual combat, burials and sacrifices, were all accompanied by music and dance.

The cultures of ancient Peru created percussion and wind instruments with the many materials offered by nature and in their art they represented ceremonies accompanied by music. Drums, rattles, whistles, flutes, panpipes and trumpets were played to produce rhythms and melodies that were shared during rituals. They also used resonant objects such as whistling pottery vessels which produced sounds through the movement of wind or water.

Ceremonial dress was composed of personal adornments, most of which produced sound from contact between its metal elements, or from bells or rattles hung from items of clothing. In this way such clothing and adornments lent those who wore them the aspect of supernatural beings and linked them to the world of the gods.

Club Heads
Room 9, Vitrine 106

Mochica Copper Rattles
Room 9, Vitrine 108

Chimú Silver Rattle Knives
Room 9, Vitrine 109

Mochica Warrior Clothing
Room 9, Vitrine 110

Ceremonial Knives or Tumis
Room 9, Vitrine 111

Silver Shirt
Room 9, Vitrine 112

Gilded Copper Shirt
Room 9, Vitrine 113

Mochica Warrior Dance
Room 9, Vitrine 116