March 3, 2021

The incredible polychrome of the idol of Pachacámac

After an investigation in this sculpture of more than two meters, it has been found that it was painted in red, yellow and white colors.

We talked about a figure of god Pachacámac, creator of the earth, which according to the Wari was the one who could predict the future in the Inca Empire in the Andes (Peru). It has been three colors, yellow, white and red that have been identified in this piece of wood more than two meters high that would date between the eighth and ninth centuries. It would be, in this case, the only example, for now, of polychromy icons in the zone.

At first, hence its importance, it was thought that it had only one color just like all the figures in the Pachacámac archaeological sanctuary, located 30 kilometers from Lime, but they realized that there were some patterns that did not follow the other pieces.

The funny thing is that the piece should have disappeared during the conquest of Pizarro in 1533, since it could not be understood that the locals venerated a piece of dirty wood in a dark place and also being compared to the devil. They should have destroyed it, but according to Marcela Sepúlveda, who is a researcher at the Sorbonne University: “What is clear is that this object was preserved and idolized for 800 years, which constitutes an incredible fact confirmed today.”

The piece should have disappeared during the conquest of Pizarro in 1533

Which has also helped to learn more about the polychromy of some idols: “It’s amazing. We can say that it is the only case of polychromy on wood in a sacred object of such relevance and of those discovered so far ”, continues Marcela Sepúlveda. “This polychrome practice was more common in other supports such as murals, metals or fabrics. It is poorly known in icons like these. ”

Very advanced techniques were used which resulted, thanks to a microscope and several X-ray fluorescence techniques, identified, in addition to red, the pigments used in the white teeth of a character and the yellow strokes of headdresses.

These last two colors, white and yellow, were also used in the Pachacámac Painted Temple walls. The compounds thereof would be made with the minerals available around the site. The reds, for example, would come from cinnabar, which is a mineral that has a high content of mercury and sulfur but is not found in this area, but would be about 380 kilometers away from the area, in a mine of Huancavelica.

But Peter Eeckhout, professor of pre-Columbian archeology in the Free University of Brussels, ensures that exchanges have existed for a long time between the highest social classes of different locations, therefore it would not be surprising that these colors could also have been merchandise of exchange or sale. It also ends: “The Pachacámac idol It is clearly exceptional and its bright colors give new


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