North coast, Peru
Ceremonial Knife (Tumi), A.D. 1100/1470
Gold with turquoise inlay
34 x 12.7 cm (13 3/8 x 5 in.)
Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment, 1963.841
Naymlap, the heroic founder-colonizer of the Lambayque valley on the north coast of Peru, is thought to be the legendary figure represented on the top of this striking gold tumi (ceremonial knife). The knife would have been carried by dynastic rulers during state ceremonies to represent, in a more precious form, the copper knives used for animal sacrifices. Here Naymlap stands with his arms to his abdomen and his feet splayed outward. His headdress has an elaborate open filigree design and is festooned with various small gold ornaments. Turquoise—for the peoples of ancient Peru, a precious gem related to the worship of water and sky—is inlaid around the headdress and in the ear ornaments. The tumi was made with diverse metalworking techniques. Solid casting was used to produce the blade. The face and body were created with annealing (heating, shaping, and then cooling) and repoussé, in which the design is hammered in relief from the reverse side. Finally, the small ornaments at the top of the headdress were separately hammered or cast, then soldered into place. This tumi and many other gold, silver, and textile objects were made in royal workshops and ceremonially presented to high officials as emblems of rank and authority.
— Entry, Essential Guide, 2009, p. 19.