Through Inca art we can discover the capacity and development of the Inca culture. Ceramics, textiles and metal works are displayed in museums around the world. Because this civilization has unique characteristics in its art that you have to discover. Furthermore, Inca art was not only used for decoration, nor could it be used by anyone in the civilization.

Art of Culture Inca | Ultimate Trekking
Art of Culture Inca | Photo by:
Inca textile art | Ultimate Trekking
Textile Art | Photo by:

History of Inca art

  • According to researchers, a characteristic of the emergence of any civilization is the use of ceramics. 
  • In Peru ceramics emerged in 1800 B.C. and if we talk about the area of Lake Titicaca in 1200 B.C. 
  • The first civilizations built large buildings, many of them used as ceremonial centers.
  • The materials used by the pre-ceramic civilizations are: fabrics, shells, stones, bones, wood and baked clay. 
  • They designed stripes, diamond squares, chevrons, two-headed snakes, crabs, fish and birds. These are very popular textile designs.
  • Chiripa, Pukara and Tiahuanaco contributed to Inca art. The Chiripa culture created advanced ceramics and worked in metal. The Pukara culture is noted for its painted pottery and stone sculpture. The Tiahuanaco culture had advanced textile, wood and jewelry work. 
  • The Incas appreciated the work of artists and artisans. For even they worked directly for the Inca government.
  • As the Incas expanded, they conquered other towns such as Lambayeque. Then the Incas took the Chan Chan artists to the Inca government. 
  • When the Spaniards arrived, they melted down all the metallurgical works created. 
  • Today, a variety of Inca works such as ceramics and metals are found in museums around the world. 


  • The Incas used natural clay. They also mixed it with mica, sand, pulverized rock and shells to prevent it from cracking during firing.
  •  They did not use a potter's wheel (a flat, round tool that rotates to shape the pottery).
  • To make pottery the Incas used the technique of rolling and smoothing with a flat stone. Smaller vessels were made with clay molds.
  • Just before firing. They decorated the pottery with a clay slip and then painted it or added reliefs. 
  • The Incas fired in kilns, pits or open fires. They used oxidation methods for red, yellow and cream colors. They also used the reduction method for black pieces. 
  • The most representative form used by the Incas was the Urpu. They used it to store corn. The Urpu had a long neck, two small handles and a pointed base for stability. They decorated it with geometric designs or plants. 
  • Other types of Inca art are large plates with handles in the shape of animals, bowls, qeros vases and the paccha. The paccha has the shape of a standing plow. They used it in ceremonies to promote a good harvest. They poured corn beer on the ground. 
Urpu | Ultimate Trekking
Urpu | Photo by:

Metal Art

  • The Inca nobility used precious metal objects such as discs, jewelry, figurines, ceremonial knives (tumi) and everyday objects.
  • The Incas considered gold as the sweat of the sun. And silver was the tears of the moon. Copper was also popular along with precious stones, polished bone and shell.
  • They worked metals by alloying, casting, incising, engraving, molding and gilding. 
  • Meanwhile Inca jewelry included earrings, ear flares, pendants, bracelets and dress pins.
  • Inca royalty drank from gold and silver vessels. They also wore shoes with silver soles.
  • In burial places, figurines of humans and llamas made of gold were found. The Incas made them with casting or with up to 18 sheets of gold. These objects had realistic details.
  • They made pieces representing the sun, moon, stars and the rainbow with gold and silver. 
  • The Incas placed masks of their main gods in temples important to the empire. Although many of them are lost.
  • The most popular lost Inca art is the golden statue representing the god Inti.  
Inca Art | Ultimate Trekking
Photo by:

Inca Textiles

  • Few samples of Inca textiles survive, yet thanks to the Andean people we have examples of unique textiles.
  •  The Inca society finely worked the finishes and decorations on their textiles. The decorations symbolized wealth and status. 
  • Fine textiles were worth more than gold and silver because the Incas even used it as a tax or currency.
  • They created weavings with up to 120 wefts per centimeter. They were considered the most skilled in the Americas. In the 16th century A.D. when the Spaniards arrived, textile weaving welcomed them. 
  • If you expected it to be an activity for women of all classes, in the empire it was not. Men also created textiles and the finest ones, they were called qumpicamayocs.
  • The Incas used cotton, llama, alpaca and vicuña wool. In addition, the Inca ruler used only vicuña textiles.
  • The most used colors were black, white, green, yellow, orange, purple and red. And all of them were obtained from natural dyes.
  • Red signified conquest and government. On the other hand, green represented the jungle and agricultural growth.
  • The Incas made abstract geometric designs, similar to the chessboard and tocapus. Animals such as felines, llamas and plants appeared in Inca textile art.