South American Artifacts by Civilization

South American Artifacts by Civilization


Top Ten Nazca Artifacts

Top Ten Nazca Artifacts

       Located in the Ica and Nasca Valleys of the south coast of Peru, the ancient Nasca culture dominated a large part of southern Peru between 100 BC and 700 AD. The Nasca people lived in a dry desert environment, intersected with rivers carrying rain from the Andes. In areas with sufficient water, they practiced agriculture and exploited marine resources. Because they depended on water and other natural resources to live, many Nasca activities were devoted to the spiritual powers that controlled the forces of nature. The Nasca culture developed out of the earlier Paracas culture, and its beginning is marked by the introduction of slip-painted pottery. Textiles with elaborate decoration and images, including depictions of the ritual use of trophy heads, are found in both late Paracas and early Nasca cultures. The Nasca are also known for their geoglyphs or “Nasca Lines”, geometric forms and giant drawings of birds, animals and other natural forms etched in the desert of southern Peru. The designs of these forms were similar to those found on Nasca textiles and pottery.

  1. Gold Breastplate

    This is a circular gold laminate breastplate from the Peabody Museum.
  2. Gold Mask (100 BC-700 AD)

    This is a hammered gold alloy laminate mask found on the South Coast of Peru. It is believed to have been made sometime between 100 BC-700 AD and measures 18.4 cm by 21.8 cm. It can be found at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  3. “El Fantasma de Nazca” Gold Serpent Mask

           This is a gold serpent mask known as “El fantasma de Nazca.”
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  4. Gold Breastplate

           This is a circular gold laminate breastplate from the National Museum of Peru.
  5. Gold Headdress (100 BC-300 AD)

           This is a hammered and embossed gold laminate Headdress from sopmetime between 100 BC–300 AD. It was found on the South Coast of Peru and is believed to be from the Nazca culture. It measures 12 ¾ in. by 19 in. and can be seen at the Bowers Museum
    Links: Top Ten Headdresses,
  6. Pair of Gold Supernatural Birds (150-300 AD)

           This pair of supernatural birds, possibly Hummingbirds, are made out of hammered gold and is part of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.
    Links: Top 100 Birds,
  7. Gold Spatula or Celt (100 BC-700 AD)

           This is a Gold Spatula, or possibly a gold celt, depicting a carved lizard. It measures 11.8 cm by 2.6 cm and resides in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
  8. Gold Tipped Spear Thrower (2nd-8th Century AD)

           This is a Nazca gold tipped spear thrower found on the South Coast of Peru.  It was constructed out of wood, metal, bone, thread and sinew. It measures 52.8 cm in length and currently resides at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
    Links: Weapons and Armor, Top Ten South American Weapons,
  9. Large Ceramic Figure (100-300 AD)

           This massive ceramic object of the early Nasca style depicts a modest human in a simple men’s skirt clutching a baton and a trophy head. He is being preyed upon by a larger, richly adorned personage who appears to be feasting via a long tongue through the victim’s neck. It stands 62.5 cm and resides in the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.
  10. Gold Bird Motif Ornament or Tupu Needle

           This object is a bird motif ornament or Tupu needle and resides at the Museo Larco.
    Links: Top 100 Birds,
  11. Gold Figurine

  12. Double Spouted Jar (100-300 AD)

           Trophy heads were used in shamanistic and funerary rituals and are depicted on many Nasca ceramics. They were taken from enemy captives by the Nasca in local wars. The wars were probably fought between chiefdoms over rights to resources such as land and water. This vessel depicts an otherworldly being with a trophy head in its clutches. The jar stands 18 cm and can be viewed at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.
  13. Double Spouted Jar Depicting Seabirds

           This double-spouted jar depicts seabirds catching fish. The creatures shown illustrate the Nasca culture’s dependence on coastal resources in one of the richest fisheries in the world. Nasca fishermen probably competed with seabirds for fish and local potters would have reflected that competition, or perhaps co-existence, in their art. The jar stands 16 cm in height and can be found at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.
    Links: Top 100 Birds,
  14. Head Cloth (100-300 AD)

           Possible turban or head-cloth. Portions of the blue ground cloth have been repaired in modern times by sewing ancient blue cloth from another garment over deteriorated areas. The textile is clearly Nasca in form and technique, but it is a modern amalgum of several textiles. The fragments of cross-knit looped tabs do not match seamlessly, and the yarn fringes on the ends are not consistent with the age of the textile. The tab elements of the border fringe depict maize in some cases and beans in others. The cloth can be seen at its home in the Textile Museum of Canada.
  15. Gold Bird Ornaments (1st–2nd Century AD)

           These two gold bird ornaments date back to the 1st–2nd century. They measure 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm) and are part of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection.
    Links: Top 100 Birds,
  16. Gold Laminate Head-Piece

           This is a gold laminate head-piece.
  17. Cross-Knit Looped Fragment of a Border (100-300 AD)

           Cross-knit looped fragment of a border. The human faces represent severed heads. The long black yarn does not indicate a beard, as Andean men lacked such substantial facial hair, but long hair. The heads are stitched to a band with geometric designs. Above the band is a series of paired tabs which represent beans, an Andean staple. This textile is a fragment of what may have been a fringe element sewn along the armhole or neck slit of a man’s tunic. Fragment Length: 33.5cm Textile Museum of Canada
  18. Links: Top Ten Peruvian Attractions,,,

Recommendations for Understanding the Mystery of the Nazca 

Top Ten Moche Artifacts

Top Ten Moche Artifacts

       Moche was located on the north coast of Peru. Its pyramids, Huaca del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Huaca de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon), were the leading ceremonial and political centers for the Moche realm in 450 AD. The Pyramid of the Sun is one of the largest structures in the Americas, rising to 40 m above the valley floor and built with millions of adobe bricks. Known as the first identifiable state of the Andes, the Moche united many coastal groups, built and controlled extensive irrigation networks, and produced thousands of ceramic vessels. They used molds to make vessels and exported them throughout their territory. Moche art is expressive; every significant animal and plant in the region has been depicted by a Moche artist. The artwork illustrates many activities such as royal burial, hunting and warfare. Moche art also includes personal portraits of actual individuals. These portrait heads were realistic portrayals of nobles and leaders. This suggests that the Moche were interested in their leaders as individuals, not only as manifestations of a royal office, but as real people.

  1. Effigy Figurine

    Links: Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  2. Mochica Gold Figure with Sacrificial Knife and Head

    This is a gold Mochica figure with sacrificial knife and head from the Gold Museum of Peru in Lima.
    Links: Top Ten Knives/Daggers,
  3. Sea God Headdress (700 AD)

    This Moche sea god headdress dates to 700 AD.
    Links: Top 100 Masks, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  4. Royal Tomb of El Señor de Sipán

    This tomb, known as El Señor de Sipán, can be viewed at the Royal Tombs of Sipán museum in Lambayeque, Peru.
    Links: Top Ten Tombs,
  5. Nariguera Depicting the Decapitator

    This Moche Nariguera depicts the Decapitator (Ayapec, Ai Apaec ), and was crafted out of gold with turquoise and chrysocolla inlays. It currently resides in the Museo de Oro in Lima, Peru.
  6. Gold Fan Headdress

    Links: Top Ten Headdresses, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  7. Anthropomorphic Gold, Copper and Polished Stone figure

    This anthropomorphic gold, copper and polished stone figure…
  8. Effigy figure from Sipan

  9. Fox Head Headdress (400–800 AD)

    The Moche considered the fox a lunar symbol because of its nocturnal habits and they admired the animal for its cunning and agility. This fox head was probably part of a dramatic headdress: the shell teeth and wire whiskers add realistic detail, the small disks on the ears and chin would have caught the light and tinkled when the headdress moved, and the tongue is designed so that it moves freely.
    Links: Top Ten Headdresses, Top 100 Busts,
  10. Copper Alloy Figurine

    This copper figurine can be found at the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino.
    Links: (Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino),
  11. Moche Pottery

    These are Moche stirrup spout vessels which can be found at the Larco Museum Collection in Lima, Peru as well as the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.
  12. Gold Blowgun with Zoomorph Figure

    This is a gold blowgun with zoomorph figure that resides at the Museo Larco. Blowguns…
    Links: Weapons and Armor, Top Ten South American Weapons, (Museo Larco),
  13. Earflare (3rd-7th Century AD, 2nd-3rd Century AD)

    On these technically complex condor earflares, the front plates are made of sheet gold to which repoussé silver birds are attached by small tabs. The back plates and shafts are of gilded copper and also join in this manner. The ornaments were worn in the distended lobes of the ears, the long tubular shafts counterbalancing the weight of the frontals. The birds with massive talons and strong, curved beaks adorning these earflares depict Andean condors, identified by the large caruncle (fleshy protuberance) at the base of their beaks and the wattle around their necks. Impressive birds with a wing span of up to ten feet, Andean condors inhabit the high Andes mountains above 9,000 feet. They are primarily carrion eaters, but will occasionally kill for food. Condors and vultures are highly symbolic birds and are a frequent theme in Moche art. They embellish tumis, or knives used in ritual sacrifice, and are often shown pecking at human and animal heads and bodies. Because of their eating habits, they have a natural connection with predation, death, and sacrifice. The condor earflares can be found in the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection.
  14. Bonus: Gold and Turquoise Nose Piece

    This gold and turquoise nose piece is part of a large collection of Moche jewelry that can be seen at the Museo Larco.
  15. Bonus: Gold Jewelry

    Moche jewelry is very intricate and beautiful.
  16. Bonus: Gold Funerary Mask

           This golden funerary mask was found at the pyramid of the moon site.
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  17. Bonus: Copper and Gold Alloy Tumi Knife

           This copper and gold alloy Tumi knife is currently in a private collection.
    Links: Top Ten Knives/Daggers,
  18. Bonus: Copper Scepters

           These copper scepters, which were used for ceremonial purposes can be found at the Museo Larco.
    Links: Top Ten Scepters,
  19. Bonus: Decapitator Mural

           This Moche mural of the “Decapitator” (Ayapec, Ai Apaec) is located at Huaca de la Luna in…
  20. Bonus: Vessel Depicting Fellatio (300 AD)

           This ceramic vessel, which depicts fellatio, dates back to 300 AD and can be found at the Larco Museum Collection in Lima, Peru.
  21. Links: Artifacts, Top Ten South American Artifacts, Top Ten Peruvian Attractions,,,,

Top Ten Lambayeque or Sican Cultural Artifacts

Top Ten Lambayeque or Sican Cultural Artifacts

       Sican Culture (Lambayeque) is the name archaeologist Izumi Shimada, founder of the Sican Archaeological Project, gave to a culture that predated the Inca in what is now the north coast of Peru between about 750-1375 AD. Sican meansTempleof the moon. The Sican culture is also referred to as Lambayeque culture, after the name of the region in Peru. There is still controversy over whether the two are separate cultures. The Sican culture is divided into three periods based on cultural changes.

  1. Funerary Mask (10th-11th Century AD)

    Many Andean peoples placed masks as false faces on the mummy bundles of important individuals. Depending on the status and wealth of the deceased, the masks could be of wood, ceramic, or cloth; those of the most powerful were of gold and silver. This mask comes from the northern La Leche River valley, where a succession of powerful rulers amassed prodigious amounts of wealth in metal objects. Recently, archaeologists discovered a royal burial at the presumed ceremonial and funerary center of the Sicán culture, Batán Grande. The main personage’s face was covered by a sheet-gold mask similar to the present example. It was painted with bright red cinnabar and embellished with nose and ear ornaments and dangles. In some South American countries today, red is thought to have protective qualities. Perhaps the mask’s red pigment was meant to protect the deceased in the afterlife. Poorly understood features on Sicán burial masks are the skewer-like projections from the pupils of the eyes. They may symbolize a penetrating gaze. This Lambayeque funerary mask currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York.
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  2. Mask

    This is a Sipan mask from the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Lambayeque.
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  3. Gold Cups (9th-11th Century)

    These gold cups currently reside at the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York.
    Links: Top 100 Gold ArtifactsTop Ten Chalices/Cups,
  4. Feline Faced Mask

    This mask depicts a feline face and can be found at the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum in Lambayeque.
  5. Necklace

    This is a Sipan necklace made out of Spondylus shell, which can be found at the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum, Lambayeque.
    Links: Top Ten Ancient Necklaces, Top 100 Necklaces,
  6. Tunic Fragments (800-1300 AD)

    These three substantial and colorful fragments in the Lambayeque style were all once part of a man’s tunic. The complicated imagery on the tunic is a difficult puzzle to piece together, as it contains many schematic symbols and images whose meaning is known only to the people who created it. The overall design is a series of repeated seated figures, positioned on some kind of altar or platform. The face is stylized and shown in profile with prominent eyes and teeth. The figure is wearing a classic Lambayeque style feathered crescent headdress. Each figure is bounded by posts and a combed roof, which are meant to indicate an architectural setting for the scene. These fragments measure 39.5 cm in height and can be ffound at the Textile Museum of Canada.
  7. Gold Mask

    Description: This is a gold Sican mask from the Sican Museum in Lambayeque.
  8. Pottery

  9. Vessel

  10. Two Chambered Spout and Strap Vessel (900-1250 AD)

    This two-chambered spout and strap vessel created by the Lambayeque culture of the north coast of Peru combines symbolic images from the highlands and from the coast in depicting a llama with two attendants on one half of the vessel and a Spondylus shell on the other half. The square half of the vessel has geometric designs painted on it that are similar to wall murals at Lambayeque sites, the stylized Spondylus shell which forms the other half is press-molded to closely imitate a real shell. This vessel currently resides in the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art.
  11. Fragments of Tapestry (800-1300 AD)

    This fragment of tapestry was made by members of the Lambayeque culture of the north coast of Peru. The main figure depicted in the repeating scene is front facing and is wearing a double crescent headdress with feather details. The main figure is flanked by figures in profile wearing long draping head-cloths with tabbed fringes. The fragment is 24.1 cm in height and resides in the Textile Museum of Canada.
    Links: Top Ten Tapestries,
  12. Links: Artifacts, Top Ten South American Artifacts,,

Top Ten Chimu Artifacts

Top Ten Chimu Artifacts

       The Chimú were the residents of Chimor with its capital at the city of Chan Chan, a large adobe city, in the Moche valley of Trujillo,Peru. The Inca ruler Tupac Inca Yupanqui led a campaign which conquered the Chimú around 1470 AD, just fifty years before the arrival of the Spanish in the region. Spanish chroniclers were able to record accounts of Chimú culture from individuals who had lived before the Inca conquest. Archaeological evidence suggest that Chimor grew out of the remnants of Moche culture; early Chimú pottery had some resemblance to Moche pottery. Their ceramics are all black and their metalwork is very detailed and intricate. The Chimú resided in the north coast of Peru: “It consists of a narrow strip of desert, 20 to 100 miles wide, between the Pacific and the western slopes of the Andes, crossed here and there by short rivers which start in the rainier mountains and provide a series of green and fertile oases.” The valley plains are very flat and well suited to irrigation, which is probably as old as agriculture here. Fishing was also very important and was almost considered as important as agriculture.

  1. Gold Crown and Necklace (1300 AD)

    This gold apparel can be seen at the Larco Museum in Lima, Perú.
    Links: Top Ten Crowns, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  2. Gold Cup

    Links: Top Ten Chalices/Cups, Top 100 Gold Artifacts,
  3. Gold Knife

    Links: Top Ten Knives/Daggers,
  4. Gold and Silver Death Mask (1000–1465 AD)

    This is a death mask made of gold and silver alloy with copper eyes and ears. It can be seen at the Museo Larco in Peru.
    Links: Top 100 Masks,
  5. Shoes (12th-15th Century AD)

    These are ataderos (ankle boots), from the Chimu culture in Peru. They were made between the 12th and 15th century A.D. Most likely intended for an elite burial, the boots are made out of silver, which in the Chimu culture was a luxury item limited to the upper classes. These boots are the only known surviving pair that may have actually been worn. The three others, known to exist, are all miniatures.
    Links: Top 100 Shoes, Top Ten Ancient Shoes,
  6. Gold Kero Beaker

    Links: Top Ten Chalices/Cups,
  7. Gold Monkey Kero

    The KERO (or beaker) of beaten gold was created by the indigenous Chimú culture of northern Peru prior to its domination by the Inca in the fifteenth century. Gold was highly prized by the Peruvians and was even thought to be the congealed “tears of the gods.” The artistry required to fashion such a large container with ornate relief elements represents this culture’s highly skilled metal-working tradition. The design of the beaker is well suited to its shape. When inverted, the lower embossed band serves as a collar, and the two bands at the top become a flat cap. Several gold keros of this type bear upside-down faces. Only when empty can these beakers be placed bottom-side up to display the face of the god.
  8. Silver Panpiper Vessel (14th-15th Century)

    This panpiper vessel is from the North Coast of Peru and stands 8 1/4 in. (20.9 cm). It is currently part of the Michael C. Rockefeller Memorial Collection.
  9. Gold Piece

    This square cast gold piece measures 5 in and resides in the American Museum Of Natural History Collection.
  10. Headband with Feather (1370-1470 AD)

           This hammered gold headband with feather dates back to 1370-­1470 AD and is currently part of the Dumbarton Oaks Collection.
  11. Earflares (900-1470 AD)

  12. Gold Pectoral

    This is a gold Chimu pectoral, which can be found at the Museo Larco in Peru.
  13. Bonus: Silver Nose Ornament (1100–1470 AD)

    This is a silver nose adornment from the Museo Larco in Peru.
  14. Bonus: Gold and Copper Tunic

    This Gold & Copper Repoussé Tunic can be seen at the National Museum Of Peru.
  15. Bonus: Mantle (1000-1476 AD)

    This mantle, which depicts pelicans and tuna fish dates to the late intermediate period of Chimu culture, lasting from 1000-1476 AD.
  16. Bonus: Vessel (1100-1400 AD)

    This vessel depicts a fisherman on a ‘caballito de totora,’ or…
  17. Bonus: Copper Ceremonial Knife (10th-15th Century)

    The Moche people of northern Peru (first–seventh century) were among the first to use copper, often with the addition of arsenic to harden the metal and improve the quality of the cast. Moche metalworkers hammered most of their precious metals, gold and silver, into objects of sheet metal, but many works in copper were cast by the lost-wax technique. The Chimú people, who made this ceremonial knife, inherited the rich cultural and artistic traditions developed by the earlier Moche. Clearly a ritual object, indicated by the delicate, projecting details and attractive silhouette, the knife has a semicircular blade. The flat undulating shaft is embellished with circles in relief; stylized birds project from its sides. At the top is a human head wearing a headdress with mushroom shapes. The detailed facial features, wide staring eyes and open mouth framed by age wrinkles, give the face a startled look. The holes in the earlobes once held ornaments. The object is cast of a copper/arsenic alloy; its surface is now covered with copper corrosion developed over many centuries of burial. This knife currently resides at the Metropolitan Museum in New York.
    Links: Top Ten Knives/Daggers,
  18. Bonus: Copper Fishhook

    This copper fishhook can be found in the Museo Larco.
    Links: Top 100 Fish,
  19. Bonus: Vessel

    This vessel depicts sexual acts and resides in the Museum of the Americas in Madrid, Spain.
  20. Links: Top Ten Peruvian Attractions,,,,