Keros were celebratory objects, used among native Andeans for drinking and toasting on feast days. These vessels were usually produced in pairs and seem to embody deeply-held Andean notions of reciprocity. Keros were carved out of wood and, in the colonial period, incised and painted. These vessels typically measure about 7 or 8 inches tall, with their top flaring slightly.
The production and use of keros extended from pre-Hispanic times through the colonial period. While the imagery of colonial keros does not mirror exactly pre-conquest models, vessels such as this one offer physical evidence of Andean desires to preserve and revive pre-Hispanic memories and practices.
Colonial keros often served as ritual gifts, cementing social and economic relations within communities. Keros were also heirlooms, passed from generation to generation. In the 16th century, and then again in the 18th, Spanish officials considered keros dangerous, because they evoked Andean practices and beliefs that could be a challenge to Spanish authority. And it is clear from both kero imagery and historical documents that many of these vessels recalled a glorious and lost pre-Hispanic past. Some painted keros display battles in which the Inka emerged victorious over pre-Hispanic foes. Others feature planting ceremonies, as does this kero, with people dressed in an old, pre-Hispanic-style of clothing. Thus with every use, keros restated and lengthened the trajectory of indigenous authority in the Andes.
Cummins, Thomas B.F. 2002. Toasts with the Inca: Andean abstraction and colonial images on quero vessels. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Gisbert, Teresa. 1980. Iconografía e mitos indígenas en el arte. La Paz.