Among the Inca – A Ceremonial Feast

Lesson Plan


Students will learn how the Inca Aryballo (Large Jug) was used during Inca ceremonial feasts, then create a comic strip detailing a conversation that might have taken place among invitees during the celebration.

Intended Age Group

Secondary (grades 6-12)

Length of Lesson

One 50 minute lesson

Standards Area

Visual Arts


Students will be able to:

  • describe the artistic characteristics, purpose, and use of the Large Jug;
  • explain the significance of certain ceremonial feasts during the time of the Inca Empire; and
  • create a comic strip detailing an imagined conversation between attendees at one of the Incan feasts.


  1. Warm-up: Draw three or four stick figures of various sizes and shapes doing different activities on a whiteboard in the classroom. Invite the students to do a quick-write about what is happening in the picture. Ask for volunteers to share their ideas on what the stick figure scenes depict. Be prepared for lots of fun and laughter!
  2. Display the Large Jug and invite students to share what they notice about the piece. What colors and patterns do they see on the Aryballo? How would they describe the shape of the Aryballo? What might have been the purpose and function of the Aryballo? How does the Aryballo compare with other pieces of art the students have seen?
  3. Discuss how the Large Jug was probably used to serve chicha, a drink made from corn, during festive, ceremonial occasions during the era of the Inca Empire. Explain how Incan leaders provided food, clothing, and other necessities as well as occasional feasts in exchange for the commoners’ labor and military service. See the About the Art section for more information.
  4. Invite students to brainstorm an imaginary conversation that might have taken place between an Incan leader and one of the tributaries, or between any other pair or group of individuals, during one of the Incan feasts. What might they have talked about? Encourage students to share their ideas with each other during this brainstorming process.
  5. Have students write and illustrate their own comic strip (or have them work collaboratively to create a series of related comic strips) to convey this imaginary conversation. Be sure to have the students include an aryballo in one of the comic strip scenes!


  • Lined paper and pen/pencil for each student
  • About the Art section on Large Jug
  • One color copy of the jug for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Invent and Discover to Create
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
    • Envision and Critique to Reflect
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Research and Reasoning
    • Writing and Composition
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art

Large Jug (Aryballo)

Aryballos with insects

A.D. 1400-1532


Who Made It?

We don’t know who crafted this jug, but because of its shape, we know that the artist lived during the time of the Inca Empire. Vessels such as these were made in both large and small sizes. The artist formed the jug out of clay, smoothed the surface, and then decorated it with colored slips that were made up of a mixture of clay, water, and mineral pigments. Finally, the surface of the vessel was burnished or polished before firing.

Ceramics made by craftsmen in the workshops of Cuzco, the Inca capital, were highly prized as tangible evidence of imperial prestige. Local imitations were produced throughout the vast territory conquered by the Inca, which extended from Ecuador in the north to Chile in the south. Numerous ethnic groups and independent political entities were not only conquered but also effectively integrated into a centrally administered political and economic system.

What Inspired It?

Vessels of this shape were used to hold liquids, especially chicha, a kind of beer made from corn. Very large vessels like this one would probably have been used on festive, ceremonial occasions. In the Inca Empire, commoners paid tribute to their local lords, religious authorities, and imperial administrators in the form of labor and military service. These authorities reciprocated with food, clothing, and other necessities. Most importantly, leaders held feasts for their tributaries, providing copious amounts of chicha. Serving this beer from an elaborately decorated jar such as this emphasized the wealth and generosity of the Inca state. Inca vessels of this shape are called aryballos because of their resemblance to similarly shaped ancient Greek ceramics.


Painted Decorations
Painted Decorations

The painted decorations on this vessel are particularly elaborate. Red and black flamingos form lines around the neck. The front of the vessel is divided into three zones: a vertical central panel with a diaper pattern (an all-over diamond-shaped pattern) that is flanked by two horizontally subdivided sections filled with insects and flowers.

The Lug
The Lug

The lug, found on the vessel’s shoulder at the base of the neck, is shaped like a jaguar head with a toothy mouth.

Ingenious Design
Ingenious Design

The handles and lug, along with a strap, were used to transport the jug. The strap was looped through one handle, up over the top of the lug, and then down through the other handle. The person carrying the jug used his back for support and tied the two free ends of the strap around his waist.

Holes at the Rim
Holes at the Rim

There are two small holes under the rim of the vessel that would have been used to secure a lid (now missing).

Pointed Base
Pointed Base

The pointed base was intended to be set in a depression in a dirt floor.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.