Knives like these were used in ancient surgery such as skull trepanation where an opening was cut in the skull of a living person as a form of medical treatment. This is an ancient copper surgical knife called a TUMI, popular with the Pre-Columbian Chimu and Moche cultures of South America. Tumi of this type were also used in ritual sacrifices. Many ancient human skulls have been noted in science from this region whereby surgical cuts were made with tumi knives and in many instances, the patient lived and the wound healed. It is unknown why such practices were performed.
This exceptional specimen is in superb preservation and is a classic example of this ancient surgical and sacrificial knife type, unique to this region of the ancient world. The knife is complete and shows very heavy malachite copper mineral encrustations with vivid colors and deposits. These deposits include patches of original cloth impressions on the surface as well as original cloth wrapping perhaps done so to be interred with the deceased. This genuine artifact is not only an exquisite example for any Pre-Columbian weapon or artifact collection but would also make a most memorable gift for any physician or someone in the medical field who appreciates ancient history.
The Chimú culture arose about 900 AD, succeeding the Moche culture, and was later conquered by the Inca emperor Topa Inca Yupanqui around 1470, fifty years before the arrival of the Spanish in the region. The Chimu culture was centered on Chimor with the capital city of Chan Chan, a large adobe city in the Moche Valley of present-day Trujillo, Peru. The Chimú occupied a strip of desert on the north coast of Peru. The rivers in the region carved a series of fertile valley plains, which were very flat and well-suited to irrigation. Agriculture and fishing were both very important to the Chimú economy.
Worshipping the moon, the Chimú, unlike the Inca, considered it more powerful than the sun. Offerings played an important role in religious rites. A common object for offerings, as well as one used by artisans, was the shell of the Spondylus shellfish, which resides only in the warm coastal waters off present-day Ecuador. Associated with the sea, rainfall, and fertility, Spondylus shells were highly valued and traded by the Chimú people, and the exchange of the shells played a significant economic and political role in the empire.
The western coastal desert region of South America is considered the most arid place on our planet. Because of this, it has protected ancient objects in near perfect preservation where most other regions of the world would have claimed them to rot and decay. One of the most famous historical artifacts of Pre-Spanish archaeology in this region is ancient textiles of the former native American empires that once thrived there over 1000 years ago. Preserved as if many were made just yesterday, these woven textiles shed amazing insight on the mind, beliefs and practices of this ancient peoples. In their world, these woven fabrics were prized greater than gold or silver. The possession of these colorful and intricately woven textiles were a show to all that their owners were amongst the most noble and richest members of the society of that day.
The ancient textiles of this region and peoples were made up of hand spun and woven fibers. These fibers were either cotton or the wool of indigenous camelids that included the llama, alpaca, guanaco and vicuna. Some textiles were made of dyed fibers, used alternatively with different colors to create patterns. Some textiles were woven of a few or single primary color with the design hand-painted on the cloth after the weaving was completed. Other textiles were embroidered and even appliqués of shell, gemstones, gold or silver were added within the weaving.
Bourget, Steve: Sex, Death, and Sacrifice in Moche Religion and Visual Culture, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2006
Bourget, Steve, Kimberly L. Jones : The Art and Archaeology of the Moche: An Ancient Andean Society of the Peruvian North Coast (Editor)
Froeschner, E.H., Two examples of ancient skull surgery. Journal of Neurosurgery 76:550-552, 1992.
Popson, Colleen., Grim Rites of the Moche, Archaeology - Volume 55 Number 2, March/April, 2002