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Ceremonial Knife (Tumi)

Gold knife with figure on handle, round turquoise inlays on crown.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • Gold knife with figure on handle, round turquoise inlays on crown.




North coast, Peru

About this artwork

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). It 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 gold headdress has an elaborate open filigree design. Turquoise—for the peoples of ancient Peru, a precious gem related to the worship of water and sky—is inlaid around the headdress cap 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 relief design is hammered into a mold from the reverse side. Finally, the small ornaments around 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.


On View, Gallery 136


Arts of the Americas




Ceremonial Knife (Tumi)


Peruvian North Coast (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Gold with turquoise inlay


34 × 12.7 cm (13 3/8 × 5 in.)

Credit Line

Ada Turnbull Hertle Endowment

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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