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History of the Casa Concha Museumn



By Dr. Jean-Jacques Decoster

First Director of the Machu Picchu Museum


     The collections of the Casa Concha Machu Picchu museum make up a permanent exhibition open to the public of 350 pieces and another 45,000 broken pieces, like ceramic fragments and bones – including 177 parcial human skeletons. 

     The permanent exhibition brings together ceramic objects, metals, rocks, and Inca stonework from the excavation of Machu Picchu in 1912. The Inca matierials are joined with local artifacts like ceramics, cloth,  and silverwork along with relics excavated from the site of the museum: Casa Concha.

     The museum was opened in November 2011 in order to receive and present the Machu Picchu collection to Yale University. The museum and the University had been negotiating the return of the artifacts for several years.

     The majority of the objects are ceramic and were used

by the people who lived at Machu Picchu until the end of

the fifteenth century to prepare the Chicha, cook the corn,

and eat the food.  It is assumed that these objects were

used daily by the population of the mountain-top city

who resided there for the majority of the year.

     In addition to the ceramic pieces, it is possible to

observe other objects of daily use like a tumis, tupus,

beads, dice, blanket clasps etc. Some stone pieces were

barely used in offerings but are in the museum to show

the importance of stone in Ina rituals and sacrifices.

     But other pieces were just used for rituals and they

invite us to reflect on questions that have been debated

by researchers for years. I refer here not to Inca objects

but ones clearly belonging to northerners like the

Chimus or Chimu-Incas. One is a black anthropomorphic

bottle (the black color expresses chimu origin) but the flat

lip of the bottle seems to indicate Inca influence. Another

example is the pacha shaped hand holding a cup. It is a

beautiful display of pottery with a junction that clearly indicates a mold.

     The presence of these ritual pieces that came from parts of the Andean territory whose addition to the empire was in the later stage of the expansion of the Inca empire,  leads us to rethink the occupation and function of Machu Picchu. In fact, the idea of imperial use of Machu Picchu is that it was built by an Inca only for the exlusive use after his reign was over contradicts the prescense of objects from other parts of the Andean territory that wasn’t controlled by Pachacutec during his rule. The historical and archaelogical evidence supports the construction of Machu Picchu was by hands of the people of Cusco, the presence of northern ceramics in the Machu Picchu excavation indicates that Machu Picchu remained an important city in the region at a ritual or commerical level long after the fall of Pachacutec.

     Furthermore the other objects in the collection of the Casa Concha also expand on what is known about the people that stayed at Machu Picchu. There are Inca pitchers (aríbalos) that were found in the excavation of 1912. The aribalos (used in the production of chicha) are broken and missing the flared lip and neck. However, it can be noted that the fracture of the neck has been smoothed over and polished to allow reuse. Furthermore, in the case of one of these jars, patches of lead, a matierial unknown to the Incas,  have been found. This fact allows us to suggest the idea of a partial occupation of Machu Picchu in the colonial times and/or in the Republican time.

     The artifacts in the collection of the Machu Picchu Casa Concha Musem are noted for their aesthetic and artistic value. But beyond that, they serve as a way for us to better understand the history of the Incas and Machu Picchu. In particlar, to exhibit to a greater extent the influence of Machu Picchu, regardless of time and space, was much greater than previously thought.

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