Pair of Keros

Date: 16th–17th century

Geography: Peru

Culture: Quechua

Medium: Wood, pigmented resin inlay

Dimensions: Height 7 in.

Classification: Wood-Containers

Credit Line: Bequest of Arthur M. Bullowa, 1993

Accession Number: 1994.35.15, .16


Keros were used by numerous Andean societies to drink chicha, a fermented beverage made with corn. Inca keros were made of wood obtained in the Antisuyu—the territory covering the eastern slope of the Andes—and often decorated with geometric incisions. Keros continued to be produced and used after the Spanish conquest. During the sixteenth century, colored inlays made with a resin called mopa-mopa were combined with incisions to create a polychrome decoration. The identical keros of this pair are divided into three registers. The figures depicted on the upper register echo the traditional Andean worldview of balanced dichotomy. Male figures (in short tunics) and females (in dresses and shawls) each hold a mace and a banner. The row of diamonds in the central register resemble the line of tocapus (small squares with geometric designs) decorating the waist of Inca tunics. The lower register of inlaid keros often depicts a row of flowers that arc toward the viewer's left. These flowers, called garway piñas, grow in the Peruvian southern highlands.