The Gallinazo Culture

The Gallinazo culture that reigned on the north coast of Peru from about 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. was developed in the river valley of Virú. That is why it is sometimes also called the Virú culture. The Gallinazo artefacts have been found from the area that extends from the river valley of Santa almost to the border of Ecuador. The Gallinazo culture is an important mark in the prehistory of the north coast, because the aristocratic administrative system that it developed and strengthened laid the foundation for the Moche culture.

The sculptural and expressing tradition that became dominant already during the preceding Cupinisque culture continued in the finished Gallinazo ceramics. These features were carried on through the Gallinazo ceramics further on to the design of the Moche ceramics. However, there is a difference in the technical realization of the ornamentation. In Gallinazo ceramics it was done with the so-called negative painting, that is, desired areas were plated lighter with wax or corresponding organic matter before baking the vessel. The wax melted away during the baking, but the areas that it originally covered were left lighter than the other surface and so they made up a desired ornamental pattern.

The man presented in this Gallinazo vessel had presumably a high status, judging by his magnificent headdress and big earplugs. © Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, Lima, Peru (Cat. 39)

In this vessel, presenting a captured feline, the careful, realistic way of making objects, typical of the Gallinazo ceramics, is very clearly visible. © Museo del Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, Lima, Peru (Cat. 41)