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“Kero” (Ceremonial Drinking Vessel) (work of art)

Artwork Info

circa 1000–1476
Peruvian (North Coast and Sicán Culture)
Height and diameter:
10 x 7.5 inches (25.4 x 19.1 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Ancient American


Key Ideas about this Work of Art

  • In the ancient culture of the Andes, a kero is a drinking vessel that is narrower at the bottom and flares out at the top. This kero is photographed upside down to show the face. The artist embossed bold lines into the metal to create the shape of the eyes and mouth and used patterns to create a hairstyle for the back of the head.
  • This kero was used for drinking chicha, a beer made from corn, during important rituals. 
  • The face depicts Naymlap, the mythological founder of an ancient culture of Northern Peru.
  • Keros were popular in Peru and other parts of the Andes before the rise of the Incan empire in the early 1200s, but the Incas started controlling kero production to create uniformity or sameness across each piece.
  • The word “kero” comes from the Quechua language, which was primarily used by the Incas. It is indigenous to the Andes Mountains, and is still spoken by approximately eight million people today.

Learn More

This vessel is known as a kero in Quechua, the primary indigenous language of Peru. Keros were used to drink chicha, a beer made from corn, which was consumed during important public rituals and social events. The kero form is found from Ecuador to Chile and spans more than twenty-five hundred years. Its geographic extent and longevity attest to the ritual importance of drinking chicha, which continues today as a central part of both ceremonial events and social gatherings. This 10-inch tall, gold-plated vessel is decorated with the face of Naymlap, the cultural hero of the Sicán people and the mythological founder of its ruling dynasty. Naymlap was a powerful figure. Drinking from a vessel with his face on it during a ritual ceremony would have been a symbolic gesture of “drinking in” Naymlap’s power.

tags: ceremony, community, mythology, power, metal

Additional Resources

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  • A gold cup decorated with the face of a Peruvian god.

    “Kero” (Ceremonial Drinking Vessel)

  • A gold cup decorated with the face of a Peruvian god.

    “Kero” (Ceremonial Drinking Vessel)

  • A gold cup decorated with the face of a Peruvian god.

    “Kero” (Ceremonial Drinking Vessel)