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National Museum of Peru

National Museum of Peru

The Museo de la Nación in Peru, known in English as the National Museum of Peru, is the largest and most important of Peru’s museums

The Museo de la Nación in Peru, known in English as the National Museum of Peru, is the largest and most important of Peru's museums. Located in the capital Lima, today it houses a vast collection of human cultural artifacts spanning the entire human occupation of Peru and dating as far back as 14,000 BC. The museum gives a comprehensive overview of all the varying ethnic groups and cultures that thrived and declined in Peru in the pre-Hispanic era. It also documents Peru's colonial epoch right through to the republic of the present day. In total, there are over 15,500 pieces on display in the museum providing everything a visitor could possibly want to know about Peruvian history and culture.

The idea of a National Museum of Peru was thought up in 1988 by then Peruvian president Dr. Alan Garcia. He issued a decree called “el Proyecto Museo de la Nación”, or the National Museum Project, which was backed by the government.  García's vision was to collect artifacts from all of Peru's many past civilizations and unite them into one collection in order to encapsulate the country's cultural variation.

The National Museum project was part of a wider government policy attempting to reduce conflict among different ethnic groups by creating a sense of Peruvian cultural unity and shared national identity. The project lasted for two years during which time new relics were discovered and gathered. These were either excavated from new archaeological sites or seized from illegal trafficking. The project was granted administrative and financial freedom by the government which demonstrates its significance to the country of Peru.

After two years building the collection, the National Museum of Peru was finally opened in 1990 in a former government building that previously housed the Ministry of Fishing. It became one of the biggest Peruvian museums, overshadowing the older Peruvian National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History, the other main museum in Lima.

The National Museum of Peru's oldest items include stone tools found in caves in the northern Peru. They are thought to date back to around 14,000 years BC. After this, the museum features artifacts from many of the lesser known pre-Incan civilizations. These include the Nazcas from the south and the Moches from the north. Both of these cultures are famous for their fine pottery made up of highly intricate designs, many examples of which are displayed at the National Museum of Peru.

The Nazcas and the Moches thrived in Peru between 100-800 AD before declining due to natural phenomena such as drought as well as internal political disputes. They were then superseded by another pre-Incan civilization called the Waris, who flourished in the south-central Andes and coastal areas of modern Peru. The Wari civilization had deteriorated by 1000 AD but their culture greatly influenced the Incas.

The Incan Empire was the largest empire of pre-Columbian America and, in modern times, it is arguably the most well known. The Incas' origins were in the Peruvian highlands in the early 13th century. From 1438 onwards they successfully expanded using both peaceful and violent methods to build an empire that encompassed most of western South America. This expansion, however, was brought to a halt in 1533 when the Spanish conquest arrived in the region.

The Incas were famed for their magnificent architecture. Evidence of this still remains in their former capital, Cusco, and in Machu Picchu high in the Andes Mountains. In addition to numerous Incan relics on display at the National Museum of Peru, there are also accurate scale models of the most famous Incan sites.  These models at the National Museum of Peru give fascinating insight into what the Inca civilization may have looked like in its prime.