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Chimú Spondylus Shell Necklace and Shell

Chimú Spondylus Shell Necklace and Shell

Regular price €420,00
Regular price Sale price €420,00
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Pre-Columbian era, Chimú culture, c. 800-1470AD, Moche Valley, Trujillo, Peru.

Wonderful long necklace constructed with hundreds of petite seed beads carved from spondylus shell fragments. These ancient disc-shaped beads (known as chaquiras), temporarily strung on cotton cord, have beautiful variations of color ranging from salmon, violet and coral to intense orange, was originally part of elaborate pectoral, and worn as a type of necklace covering the chest. Necklace included with complete half of a spondylus, the surface pitted and encrusted with age. It is unclear the estimate age of this shell, but it was very likely used by a Pre-Columbian culture as an offering.

Spondylus, a marine bivalve, also known as "thorny oyster", held important ceremonial and ritual significance to many of the prehistoric cultures in the Americas, with trading of the highly prized beads and shells extending into Chile as well as North America. Spondylus is found in the tropical waters off the coast of what is now Peru’s northernmost territory, but more commonly it was harvested off the coast of Ecuador and points farther north. Known as ‘Mullu’ or 'Muyu' by the Incas, spondylus were symbols of elite status, abundance and land fertility for many Pre-Columbian cultures. Referred to as "the daughters of the sea, the mother of all waters," these sacred shells were stored in springs, wells, and other sources of water to ensure a continued supply of life-giving water. Spondylus valves were also placed in tombs, and used as ceremonial offerings in agricultural fields in the hope of promoting an abundant harvest. These shells were more valuable than gold or even silver, and became known as ‘red gold’. 

Excellent condition. Age-related wear with a weathered surface. Necklace measures 78,0cm long. Individual bead size approx. 0,1cm-0,2cm. Shell 9,7cm x 10,6cm x 2,6cm. Sell as a set.

Provenance: From the estate of Paul Ragnar Wedendal Sr. & Paul Wedendal Jr. Collected in the 1940's to 1950's.

References and further reading:

The Spirit of Ancient Peru: Treasures from the Museo Arqueológico Rafael Larco Herrera, Katherine Berrin and Larco Museum, New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Red Gold – A Story of Sacred Shells, Stories from the Museum Floor, Manchester Museum, June 22, 2018. (

Thorny Oysters: The Daughters of the Sea, Joanne Pillsbury, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, August 22, 2016. (

Chimú, Encyclopedia of Prehistory, Melvin Ember & Peter N. Peregrine (eds), Vol. 7 : South America (1 ed.), Springer, 2001.

"Spondylus in South American Prehistory" in Spondylus in Prehistory: New Data and Approaches, Benjamin Carter, Ed. Fotis Ifantidis and Marianna Nikolaidou, BAR International Series 2216, Oxford: Archaeopress, 2011: 63-89.

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