Although the famous Nazca lines and the citadel of Machu Picchu are the best internationally known cultural expressions of ancient Peru, there are plenty of other archaeological treasures many of which can be viewed at the Larco Museum in Lima.
The ancient citadel of Machu Picchu located about 80 kilometers from the city of Cuzco dates from the 15th century; it was abandoned by the Incas in 1572 and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in Peru. However, the history of ancient Peru is rich in pre-Inca cultures that developed and expanded along the coast and the Andean regions of Peru since about 5000 years ago. Many valuable relics, representing artistic and utilitarian objects, have survived from cultures as old as the Maya of Mesoamerica, and those of Egypt, China and India.
There are some 80 archaeological sites in Peru of which about 35 are located in or around the cities of Lima and Cuzco. Excavations in the large number of archaeological sites in Peru have uncovered huge amounts of treasures and objects of cultural value, including metal pieces, textiles and ceramics, many of which were found in excellent condition or have been neatly restored.
Ceramic figure with neck, ear and head ornaments in connected vessels at the Larco Museum.
Much of the archaeological heritage of Peru has remained in the country. Numerous pieces of great value have been removed by foreign archaeologists. Many of those are being returned to Peru. It is assumed that many treasures are still undiscovered.
Among the best places to see the archaeological treasures of ancient Peru is the private “Museum Rafael Larco Herrera” located in the district of Pueblo Libre in Lima. The Larco Museum was founded in 1926 by Peruvian archaeologist Rafael Larco Hoyle (1901-1966). The collection started with about 600 pieces of pottery acquired by his father (Larco Herrera) in 1925. Through numerous excavations, acquisitions and donations, the collection grew to about 45,000 objects. Some of the most important relics are currently on display at the Larco Museum contained in an old 18th century colonial mansion built over the ruins of a 7th century pyramid.
Shelves with classified, catalogued items fill the walls in several rooms of the storage section at the Larco Museum.
Among the many historical and artistic objects there is an interesting collection of erotic art from the Moche culture that flourished in Peru between the 3rd and 6th Centuries. The general pottery collections are so vast that there is a special section where about 25,000 carefully classified pieces are stored, but available for viewing.
The museum is surrounded by beautiful gardens and it has a restaurant called "Cafe del Museo" offering visitors a taste of the best of Peruvian cuisine. Next to the main entrance, Sumac the friendly Peruvian hairless dog, greets visitors to the Museum.