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The Larco Herrera Museum, Lima’s Trove of Pre-Inca Treasures

October 28, 2017

Housed in an 18th Century palacio, the small museum is one of Lima’s best and the perfect way to learn about the myriad cultures that sprang up over millennia before the arrival of the Spaniards.
It is also one of just a few museums around the world where visitors can view the vaults where thousands of artefacts are stored.


Of Lima’s many private and public museums, one of the most delightful and important is, without doubt, the Larco Herrera Museum. Housed in a picturesque 18th Century palacio, a 20-minute drive from Atemporal, it has thousands of items of ceramics, textiles and jewellery, mainly from pre-Inca coastal cultures and in particular from northern Peru, where the museum’s founder, Rafael Larco Hoyle, began his collections in the 1920s. Larco Hoyle had been schooled in the United States, including studying agricultural engineering at Cornell before returning to Peru to work on the family sugar plantation, near the city of Trujillo.


It was here that he took charge of an uncle’s collection of 600 ceramics and got the bug for archeology. Largely self-taught in this new discipline, one which was still in its infancy in Peru in the 1920s, he began discovering more and more artefacts along Peru’s northern coast and also realizing how so little was known about the cultures they came from that new categories would have to be created for many of them. He also developed his own method of dating archeological sites, based on counting the layers of sand left by the rains of historical El Niño events, roughly every 18 to 25 years. Today, in the age of carbon dating, Herrera Hoyle’s system has proved to be very accurate.



The museum was founded in 1926, and named after Rafael Herrera Larco, Herrera Hoyle’s father. Originally, it was on the family plantation, before moving to its current site in Lima in the 1950s. It now has one of the most important collection of Peruvian pre-Colombian artefacts in the world, and its vaults, which have 45,000 different items, are also open to visitors. The museum has so many stunning pieces that it is hard to pick out a single one, although perhaps the most famous collection is of the highly graphic erotic — some say pornographic — ceramics from the Moche culture. The Larco Herrera also has a wonderfully scenic restaurant and educational programs, including for kids.


To visit the Larco Herrera Museum during your stay with Atemporal visit or contact or on +51 1 700 5106 or, if you are in the US, 347 713 7030/34.

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