Ceremonial knife of the Sican culture

Price: on request
Object number
Object: Ceremonial knife of the Sican culture

Material: Copper or arsenical copper.

Period: 10th cent. AD to 12th cent. AD.
Middle Sican, period of the Sican's cultural florescence.
In former times, ceremonial knives of this type were typically attributed to the better-known Chimú culture succeeding the Sican. More recently, however, archaeologists frequently ascribe these impressive artefacts to the Sican culture. We adopt that dating for the present piece. An important hint in this academic dispute came from the first well-documented find of such ceremonial knifes. It was made in the 2000s by Prof. IIzumi Shimada from Southern Illinois University and confirmed the Sican dating for the 10 knives excavated (see references).

Description:    Blade of a ceremonial knife called a Tumi. The knife blade is made of thin sheet copper, has a wide shaft and a crescent-shaped cutting edge.

The blade was once adorned by a figuratively decorated hilt. A tomb of the Sican elite can be suspected as the find spot. The rare and exquisite metal product served to demonstrate the power of a ruler or nobility in the afterlife. But Tumis also had a function for the elite in this world. as the ancestorial Moche culture depicted in their visual art. The knifes were used as a weapon to slit the throats of humans and animals in ritual sacrifices. A medical function has also been handed down, specifically for warriors who suffered skull injuries from clubs.
Because of these important functions, it is clear that Tumis are showpieces of Andean metallurgy. We are pleased to be able to offer a small group of these important artefacts.

Background: The Sican culture examplifies and exciting facet of the Andes civilizations, because their creation myth tells a story of immigration and assimilation. In it, the legendary ruler Ñaymlap reached the north coast of Peru with his entourage coming from the Pacific. He established a new local ruling dynasty, but adopted many of the customs he found there, with the Moche culture. The name of the coast on which Ñaymlap is said to have landed also gave the culture its older name, Lambayeque culture.

Dimensions: 16.1cm length.

Condition: Very good condition. Minor deformations and chips do not compromise the overall impression. Strong green and in two spots turquoise patina.

Provenance: Acquired by us in 2021 in the German art trade. Previously in the North German private collection U. C. Acquired from the German private collection J. Tretter. The Tumi has been in Germany since 1975.

References: Cf. Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession no. 1974.271.60.
Cf. Museum der Kulturen Basel, accession no. IVc 24745.
Cf. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, object no. 2018.270.

Literature: Scientific American, Special Editions 15, 1s, pages 80-89, Izumi Shimada and Jo Ann Griffin, "Precious Metal Objects of the Middle Sican" (January 2005, doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0105-80sp).
R. Slotta, I. Schnepel, Schätze der Anden - Chiles Kupfer für die Welt (exhibition catalogue, 2012).
Spektrum der Wissenschaft 6 / 1994, page 88, Goldschmiedekunst der altperuanischen Sicán-Kultur.

Authenticity: We unconditionally guarantee the authenticity of every artefact, all items are subject to our lifetime return policy on authenticity.