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History and Culture / Tumi mochica

Tumi Mochica "Ceremonial Knife"



The naked prisoner of war stands tied to a tree, his arms bent around its trunk, his mouth open in a cry of pain. His face has been peeled away, leaving no lips to cover his teeth and only cartilage where his nose had been.

He strains to avoid a vulture that is pecking out his right eye. Opening his breast with a TUMI and seizing the still beating heart by the diviner, will be the last thing before his head being cut off with the same pure gold knife, in order to please the Sun God.

This event ocurred about 1500 years ago, during the Splendor of the Moche, a Pre-Inca civilization.

The Tumi was a ceremonial knife, used for skull trepanation, and other purposes. It has been proven that trepanation was successfully carried out in Pre-Inca times.

The lovely Tumi we see in this picture was considered the masterpiece of Mochica metal working. It was stolen from the Anthropological museum in the 1980s and to us it meant a national tragedy. We speak about the theft of our 'Mona Lisa'. Now we only have photos like this one, taken by Wilfredo Loayza, one of our best Peruvian photographers.