Here we see one of the characteristic ceremonial vessels that have come down to us from the Inca civilization. Some vessels that are called queros, and that sometimes, like the example we see here, have zoomorphic shapes, in this case representing a jaguar.
Inca ceremonial vessel representing a jaguar
The piece comes from the department of Cuzco in what is now Peru, and experts date it to between the end of the 15th century and approximately the first half of the 16th century.
It is a carving made of wood and that was later polychromed. As usual in these ceremonial vessels of the Incas, whenever a jaguar is represented, it is depicted with its mouth open and showing its teeth, and especially its deadly fangs.
Other features of the animal are also marked with carving, such as its ears and even the snout made with incised lines and two holes to mark its nostrils. But on the contrary, the jaguar's eyes are not carved, but painted.
In reality, the entire glass, down to the last millimeter, is polychromed. On the one hand to identify the animal, and on the other with geometric and rhythmic motifs that give it life, and by the way we can relate them to the spots on the fur of this feline in its natural state.
Jaguars are powerful jungle animals where the Inca empire settled. I was an animalfeared and whose virtues and powers were used to identify various characters of the Inca society, from the shaman to the ruler, through the warrior or the priest.
In reality, everything was linked to the jaguar, since it was also allied with the reproductive power. And even in the beliefs of the Incas it appears in countless myths related to the immortal ancestors, thus giving it a character of a source of life and absolute authority.
For all these reasons, it is not surprising that this carving, as well as other similar queros that have been found in different Inca archaeological sites, formed part of religious rituals and ceremonies. Although it is true that it is impossible for us to determine its specific meaning, given the multiple personifications that were made with the jaguar and the many enigmas that we still have about the fascinating Inca culture.
What is certain is that the keros or ritual vessels with a frustoconical base like this one kept in the Museo de América in Madrid, have even reached our days, since that continue to be used by the Quechua populations of the Andes mountain range.