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Chimú Ceremonial Copper Alloy Knife Tumi

Chimú Ceremonial Copper Alloy Knife Tumi

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Pre-Columbian era, Chimú culture, c. 800-1470AD, Moche Valley, Trujillo, Peru.

Mesmerizing sacrificial knife (Tumi) made of thin sheet of arsenical copper, has a wide trapezoidal shaft and a crescent-shaped cutting edge. The knife would have been wrapped into a mummy bundle as a votive tool to be needed in the afterlife.

The tumi was a ceremonial knife used by several pre-Columbian cultures that inhabited the Peruvian coast, including the Moche, Sicán, Chimu, and Inca cultures, to carry out blood sacrifice and perform surgical procedures. As a ceremonial object, tumis were often made of precious metals, such as bronze, gold, silver or copper. The tumi often appear in Moche iconography, and is shown to be used to cut the throats of sacrificial victims. Among the Inca, the crescent-bladed knives were used to sacrifice llamas during the harvest celebrations. The festival (Inti Raymi'rata) took place at the end of the potato and maize harvest in order to thank the Sun for the abundant crops or to ask for better crops during the next season. During this important religious ceremony, the High Priest would sacrifice a completely white or black llama. Using a tumi, he would open the animal's belly and with his hands pull out its bowels, so that observing those elements he could foretell the future. Later, the animal and its parts were completely incinerated. Apart from ritual sacrifices, the tumi was also used for cranial surgery, more specifically, for cranial trephination, a form of surgery in which a hole is drilled or scraped into the skull. This surgery was done to treat psychological disorders,  headaches or a cranial fracture. Unlike the ceremonial tumis, these surgical blades were smaller.

This superb example features heavy green surface patina and encrusted mineral deposits. Light remains of ancient textile fragments and impressions on the surface. Age-related wear. Chip. Size approx. 14,1cm x 2,9cm (blade 6,3cm) x 0,1cm.

Provenance: Swedish private collection

For a similar examples see:

Tumi (knife), Princeton University Art Museum, Accession number: y1990-43 (

Tumi, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Accession number: 2018.269 (

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