Copper and its alloys performed highly important social functions in the Andes, but its use was different and more restricted than in the Old World. Andean peoples did not use these materials to make tools or weapons of war, as in Asia and Europe, but basically to fulfill symbolic and ritual functions. Mining and metallurgical processes were imbued with heavy mythical and symbolic meanings and were practiced as rituals.

Although utilitarian objects were mass produced, metal extraction and refining technologies, as well as manufacturing and finishing techniques were used to produce objects with specific properties of color, texture, shine, sound and shape, that expressed and communicated religious and ideological contents in symbolic terms. For this reason, metallurgy and the metal pieces expressed cosmic symbols and political ideologies, and were sponsored and controlled by each society’s elites.