Investigation launched after pre-Columbian Peruvian dish found in village attic

The 1,000-year-old Peruvian dish predating the Incas was discovered in a village attic in Eastern Poland. Muzeum Ziemi Biłgorajskiej

A 1,000-year-old Peruvian dish predating the Incas has been discovered in a village attic in Eastern Poland.

The dark ceramic dish, which features a South American Indian in a sitting position, holding what is most likely an instrument, was donated to the Biłgoraj Museum after being found at a private home during a clear out.

The dark ceramic dish, which features a South American Indian in a sitting position, holding what is most likely an instrument, was donated to the Biłgoraj Museum.Muzeum Ziemi Biłgorajskiej

When the artefact first arrived, it was in several dozen fragments and had to be pieced back together by the museum’s archaeologist, Konrad Grochecki.

He then analysed it and came to the conclusion that the dish came from today’s Peru and was most certainly associated with the Chimú culture which existed between the 10th and 15th century until the invasion of the Incas.

When the artefact first arrived, it was in several dozen fragments and had to be pieced back together by the museum’s archaeologist.Muzeum Ziemi Biłgorajskiej

Marek Majewski, director of the Museum in Biłgoraj said: “At first our archaeologists  thought that the shattered ceramic was an example of folk art. After putting it back together, it turned out that it is a find which is uniquely valuable in the scale of Europe.”

The item’s dating was supported by an assessment carried out by experts from the Archaeological Museum of Kraków, the oldest archaeological museum in Poland, which contains artefacts from the same period.

Posting on social media, the museum said: “A few months ago, an interesting and enigmatic ceramic vessel was donated to the Museum of the Biłgoraj Region. According to the donor, the artefact was located in the attic of one of the houses in a village near Biłgoraj. [The artefact] comes from South America, more precisely from the area of today's Peru. The vessel is most likely related to the Chimu culture that arose at the beginning of the 10th century.”Muzeum Ziemi Biłgorajskiej

Dr Jacek Górski, director of the Archaeological Museum of Kraków, said: “The item comes from the Chimú culture.

“We have artefacts from this period in our museum. We don’t have exactly this type, but you can see that it is the style from those regions.

“It is without a doubt, an incredible discovery, a huge rarity, as in Europe there are very few of these collections.”

The Chimú culture was centred on Chimor with the capital city of Chan Chan, a large adobe city in the Moche Valley of present-day Trujillo, Peru.Public domain

Konrad Grochecki, said: “The dish is around 30cm high, 25cm at its widest diameter. Its colour suggests that it was fired without access to air. In addition, the base of the dish is decorated with a continuous ornament in the form of multiplied semi-circles filled with decorations in the form of diagonal lines and small circles.”

The Chimú culture was centred on Chimor with the capital city of Chan Chan, a large adobe city in the Moche Valley of present-day Trujillo, Peru.

The culture is best known for its distinctive monochromatic pottery, often in the shape of a creature or a human figure sitting or standing on a cuboid bottle.

One theory about how it arrived in Poland is that it was brought in by explorer Władysław Kluger who amassed a large collection of pre-Columbian artefacts in the second half of the 19th century.muzea.malopolska.pl

Now an investigation has been launched to find out how it came to Poland.

Possible theories include that it was brought into the country in the 19th or the beginning of the 20th century by Poles who worked for the Peruvian government, of which a well-known example was engineer Władysław Kluger, who amassed a large collection of pre-Columbian artefacts in the second half of the 19th century, some of which are now displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Kraków.

The museum’s archaeologist Konrad Grochecki said: “The dish is around 30cm high, 25cm at its widest diameter. Its colour suggests that it was fired without access to air. In addition, the base of the dish is decorated with a continuous ornament in the form of multiplied semi-circles filled with decorations in the form of diagonal lines and small circles.”Muzeum Ziemi Biłgorajskiej

Grochecki said: “I hope that in the future we will manage to more precisely date the object and capture the sense of the scene which is depicted on the dish.

“Ahead of us is a very interesting investigation, which will solve the mystery of how the dish came to be in our region. Perhaps we will find some trail in 19th century inventories of art.”