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Paccha (Ritual Watering Vessel) Permanent Collection:
Art of the Ancient Americas:
Paccha (Ritual Watering Vessel)

South America, Central Andes, Inca. Late Horizon, A.D. 1438 - 1550. Ceramic, 13 1/2 x 5 1/8 x 3 1/2 in. (33.8 x 12.8 x 8.8 cm). Gift of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau. 1989.8.161

One of the rarest objects in the collections, this Central Andean ritual watering vessel is called a paccha in Quechua, the Inca language. Although it appears to be created from various materials, it was made entirely in clay to imitate several objects. These were placed together symbolically to encapsulate the stages of growing maize (corn), the most important foodstuff in the Inca empire.

The hooked and pointed portion represents the traditional Andean man's foot plow, known as a chakitaqlla, used to punch a hole in the soil for planting. A planter holds the long portion upright (the actual one has a much longer shaft) and steps on the hook. The artist has even modeled and painted the rope that binds the two parts of an actual plow. Atop the shaft is a half-grown ear of corn molded directly from nature; the smoothed side seams remain visible. Finally, above the hook is a miniature urpu, the long-necked storage jar for fermented corn drink (chicha). This final stage of corn consumption thus completes the cycle of planting, growing, and using maize products. However, Andean art is rarely - if ever - truly complete without activation through ritual. Wear on the tip of this entirely hollow object shows that it was itself "planted" in the ground so that liquid, perhaps chicha, could flow through it to "water" the field; the image of one successful planting ensures another.

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