This is an amazing and complete example of superb ancient Chimu metal-craft. Hammered of thin silver sheet using both repoussé and chasing skills, the designs were embossed in three-dimensional form by working both sides of the metal sheet. The subject matter is a common Chimu theme of long-billed aquatic birds. This ancient treasure piece would have been reserved for only the highest ruling class. This would have likely been worn as a headband or diadem, with a cord or textile band fastened to the pierced ends and wrapped around the back of the head. It is too delicate to have been worn as a bracelet but that is also a possibility. It was made by the ancient Pre-Columbian Chimu Indians and dates to a period from 800-1200 A.D.. Since silver was not found in riverbed alluvial deposits like gold, it was much more rare and at a minimum, considered equally precious to gold. Silver had to be mined as ore requiring quarry digging and smelting to extract the metal. As the Chimu worshipped the Moon, they most likely placed a special importance on silver objects,likely representing the cool moonbeams of a full moon at night. It is known that silver was reserved strictly for royalty, worn only by those of the ruling noble class.
Complete pieces of jewelry from the ancient world are extremely rare and rarely preserved whole, especially for an object of the most precious substance and of such delicate design as this. From a private U.S. collection with original collection label intact on reverse side (removable).
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 Chimu were also highly skilled metalsmiths, mastering work in gold, silver, bronze, copper and tumbaga. Silver was valued equal to gold and required much more work to collect and process, than gold. The Chimu metal work in silver has a transcendent mystique with their creation of elaborate crowns, breastplates, and other body adornment worn only by the highest ruling classes.
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.