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Subject: Metallurgy in pre-Columbian America, Birmingham Museum of Art, Beachwood Place, Taping knife, Yorkdale Shopping Centre
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Sican Culture Ceremonial Knife (Tumi) held at the Birmingham Museum of Art

The Tumi is a sacrificial ceremonial axe distinctly characterized by a semi-circular blade, made of either bronze, copper, gold-alloy, wood, or silver alloy usually made of one piece and used by some Inca and pre-Inca cultures in the Peruvian Coastal Region. In Andean mythology, the Moche, Chimu and Incas were descendants of the Sun, which had to be worshiped annually with an extravagant celebration. The festival took place at the end of the potato and maize harvest in order to thank the Sun for the abundant crops or to ask for better crops during the next season. During this important religious ceremony, the High Priest would sacrifice a completely black or white llama. Using a tumi, he would open the animal's chest and with his hands pull out its throbbing heart, lungs and viscera, so that observing those elements he could foretell the future. Later, the animal and its parts were completely incinerated.

Other Andean cultures such as the Paracas have used the tumi for the neurological procedure of skull trepanation. Many of these operations were carefully performed, suggesting that the surgery was done for the relief of some body disturbance other than that associated with injury, perhaps an organic or mental condition.

Tumi were produced for ritual use and for burials of elite members of society.[1] On November 21, 2006, archaeologists announced that they had unearthed 22 graves in northern Peru containing pre-Inca artifacts. Among the artifacts were the first tumi ever discovered by archaeologists. All previous examples had been recovered from grave looters.[2]

In Peru, to hang a tumi on a wall means good luck. The tumi is the national symbol of Peru and has become a symbol used in Peruvian tourism publicity.

In 1936 a great discovery happened in the valley of Batan Grande, Illimo, Lambayeque, Peru, the Tumi of Illimo was found. It is really more an axe than a knife with a weight of 992 grams, height 41 cm. The Tumi is also known with the name of Ñyalamp. There is a monograph about its iconographic content saying that Ñaylamp was a mythic hero and founder of Llampallec or Lambayeque, that he was begotten from a totemic bird with his same name, Ñaylamp. When Ñaylamp died, a story was spread out about him growing wings and flying to the sky. This hero-king founder of Lambayeque built a temple named Chot where he placed a large stone that he called Llampallec, which means statue of Ñaylamp. In this temple many ceremonies and rituals were offered using a Tumi. The knife or Tumi of Illimo is represented with a mask of a bird, wings and bird shaped eyes. The mythic stories about the bird named Ñaylamp and the hero warrior founder of Lambayeque; it is represented in the knife or Tumi of Illimo, a birdman.

See also


  1. ^  
  2. ^ "Peruvian archaeologists excavate first 'tumi' knives from pre-Inca tombs".  

External links

  • Pre-Columbian Trephination
  • Tumi Mochica "Ceremonial Knife"
  • Inca Art
  • Peru Cultural Society - Tumi, the Ceremonial Knife
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