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Recuay, style of pottery named for the province from which it was principally collected in the nineteenth century and closely identified with the intermontane Callejón De Huaylas of north-central Peru (department of Ancash). Recuay, defined largely on the basis of ornate funerary vessels of fine white kaolin clay, highly decorated by both modeling and slip painting in red, brown, and black, and by the use of postfiring negative, or resist, techniques, was in use between about a.d. 200 and 600, and has been found in coastal and highland valleys adjacent to the Callejón, but also as far away as Ecuador.

Recuay vessel forms are highly variable and include several different forms, among which are necked bottles, effigy vessels, pots, and bowls. The necked ovate bottles with flaring or flat disk rims sometimes have geometrical designs, or symmetrical humans or animals, painted or modeled in low relief but with corresponding heads in full relief. Effigy vessels of humans or animals, modeled with varying degrees of representativeness, usually with flaring collars or flat disk rims around the vessel apertures, often have an additional horizontal cylindrical pouring spout. Individual males with unique headdresses and earspools are the most common figures; individual females are portrayed with cinched waists and flowing cloth manta head coverings, sometimes holding infants in outstretched arms. Highly modeled males sometimes carry shields, play musical instruments, or hold llamas on ropes; unaccompanied llamas or felines also are depicted. Squat, flat-topped, sometimes square pots have modeled scenes of hierarchically arranged human figures, some situated in detailed architectural settings. Hemispherical bowls with pedestal ring bases are painted with simple geometric patterns or with humans or animals. Long-handled spoons, water dippers, and popcorn "poppers" are also known.

Almost half of the some 2,000 known Recuay pots are accounted for from nineteenth-century tomb lootings; thus scanty provenience information severely hampers efforts to define a chronological sequence within the Recuay style. Although subterranean stone-lined and stone-roofed tombs are clearly associated with the funerary wares, little information from modern excavations correlates the distinctive white, red, and black Recuay pottery with a society that produced and used it. The pots reiterate themes of a locally emergent sociopolitical hierarchy, probably newly asserted, which is evident in the portrayals of wealth and position on effigy vessels and in the depictions of pomp and ceremony on architectural vessels, as well as in the few known Recuay burials that concentrate pots, gold and copper adornments, lathed stone cups, and other labor-intensive artifacts in graves as at Pashash. The presumably commissioned artistry of Recuay ceramics suggests a specialized and stratified sociopolitical order.

See alsoArchaeology; Art: Pre-Columbian Art of South America.


Wendell Clark Bennett, "The North Highlands of Peru: Excavations in the Callejón de Huaylas and at Chavín de Huantar," Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 39, pt. 1 (1944).

Raphael X. Reichert, "The Recuay Ceramic Style: A Re-Evaluation" (Ph.D. diss., UCLA, 1977).

Terence Grieder, The Art and Archaeology of Pashash (1978).

Dieter Eisleb, Altperuanische Kulturer, vol. 4, Recuay (1987).

Additional Bibliography

Kauffmann Doig, Federico. Mochica, Nazca, Recuay en la arqueología peruana. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, 1966.

Klein, Cecilia F. Gender in Pre-Hispanic America. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks, 2001.

Lau, George F. "The Recuay Culture of Peru's North-Central Highlands: A Reappraisal of Chronology and Its Implications." Journal of Field Archaeology 29, no. 1-2 (Spring 2002): 177-202.

Makowski, Krzysztof, ed. Los dioses del antiguo Perú. Lima: Banco de Crédito del Perú, 2000.

Zanabria Zamudio, Rómulo. Visión castrense del antiguo Perú. Qosqo: Municipalidad del Qosqo, 1994.

                                                 Joan Gero