Pre-Columbian, Peru, Inca Empire, ca. 1470 to 1532 CE. An amazing example of a ceremonial tumi, a curved, crescent-shaped blade topped by a long, cylindrical handle with a finial decorative motif of a condor eating a snake. The condor is delightfully depicted, standing with its body stretched outward, its wings and tail feathers raised and its head forward, its long beak clenched around a serpent who is equally well-depicted, his diamond-shaped head and mottled skin carefully emphasized by the artisan who made the piece. The condor and serpent were two of the three most important symbols of the Inca world (the third is the puma/jaguar). The condor was seen as the messenger between heaven and earth, who carried the souls of the dead into the sky on its strong wings. The serpent, meanwhile, was the wise dweller of the underworld, where new life began. Size: 4.95" W x 6" H (12.6 cm x 15.2 cm); 7.4" H (18.8 cm) on included custom stand.
The tumi was sometimes used to sacrifice llamas to the sun god. The Paracas people, also from the Andes, used the tumi for human trepanation, thought to open the mind to religious enlightenment; it is unknown if the Inca did similar, but they may have done so. In modern Peru, a tumi on the wall is a symbol of good luck
Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection
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