Chile’s Museum of Pre-Columbian Art receives huge donation

Among the 3,000 piece collection are two Chinchorro mummies and a group of ancient rock carvings dating back up to 8,000 years.

Friday January 6 will go down as a historic day for the Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art in downtown Santiago, as the institution receives an unprecedented private donation of relics from Chile’s ancient cultures, before closing down for a major renovation project.

At over 3,000 archaeological pieces, the donation is to believed to represent the largest collection of pre-Columbian Chilean artefacts in the world.

Among the treasures being delivered to the museum are two Chinchorro mummies, dating back to between 1,000 and 2,000 AD, along with the Litos de  Huentelauquén, a collection of carved stone ornaments from the Antofagasta Region, which are up to 8,000 years old.

Other pieces to be donated include ceremonial knives, tapestry, headdresses, jewels and pottery from indigenous groups, such as the Diaguitas, the Molle and the Atacameños who inhabited Chile’s northern regions thousands of years ago.

The pre-historic relics formed part of the collection compiled by local archaeology buffs, Manuel Santa Cruz and Hugo Yaconi, who established the Archaeological Museum in the capital’s Lastarria neighborhood to display some of their works.

“Donating the collection was a difficult decision, which we thought about a lot,” said Ana María Yaconi, daughter of Hugo Yaconi and director of the foundation which manages the Yaconi-Santa Cruz collection.

“Our parents spent decades compiling the works and we feel responsible for making the collection better known. We can’t keep it hidden away.”

The Museum of Pre-Columbian Art’s director, Carlos Aldunate, said the “extraordinary” donation would boost the institution’s collection of native Chilean artefacts.

Throughout 2012, the museum will undergo major extension work that will see a further 19,000 square feet added to existing floor space, in preparation for a grand re-opening in 2013.

Among the additions will be a new 5,400 square foot exhibition area that will house a new display entitled “Chile Before Chile”.

While the upgrade is in progress, pieces from the museum’s existing collection will travel throughout Europe and Chile.

A group of pieces will tour Finland and Spain, while another collection of artefacts will go on display in Chile’s presidential palace, La Moneda, in August, before touring the country’s regions.