An Inca Copper Bifaced Ceremonial Tumi, ca. 1400 - 1533 CE
The Inca inherited a metalworking tradition that began well over 2,000 years before their rise to power. They brought metalworkers from all over the empire, especially the north coast, to their capital Cuzco, to produce objects in gold, silver, copper, and bronze. Knives, or tumis, were among the most common and widely distributed metal tools produced in Inca times. Typically made of tin bronze or copper such as this example, tumis were used in ritual sacrifice in the Andes for thousands of years and are frequently seen in artworks in the hands of deities and supernaturals about to perform an act of animal sacrifice, to honor the sun God Inti.
The knives themselves are often embellished with sacrificial scenes at the top or with elements that refer to sacrifice. On this tumi, the handle shows an Inca noble or ruler surmounting a sharp semicircular blade. He is dressed in full regalia and wearing a crescent headdress, who stands on a trophy head, his arms to his abdomen and his feet splayed outward. On the other side, a naked woman is portrayed in a similar pose.
Dimensions: Height: 3 3/8 inches (8.5 cm)
Condition: Intact and in excellent condition overall.
Provenance: Oma Ben-Ari Collection, Israel, purchased in 2011 from Galeria Con Tici, Florida.
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