Featured Artifacts: Human Sacrifice in the Ancient Andes
The ancient Andeans practiced many forms of sacrifice, including the offering of food and other goods, and the sacrifice of animals and humans. These sacrifices took many forms and were carried out for various reasons. By sacrificing wealth and life, Andean people acknowledged the power and importance of divine forces in their life.On the coast of Peru, the Moche people have provided some of the best archaeological examples of human sacrifice. Moche images make frequent references to human sacrifices, and archaeologists have recently discovered sacrificial contexts at Moche religious centers. At Huacas de Moche, research has shown that young men, most likely warriors, had their throat cut. Moche sacrificial imagery suggests that the blood of victims was collected in special cups and presented to important religious officials who possibly drank it.Moche human sacrifices were performed using several different weapons including wooden clubs, pointed spears and crescent-shaped knifes, known as tumis. Tumis are ritual objects with a semi-circular blade. Their crescent edges were sharpened and used to slaughter sacrificial victims. Evidence also points to the use of tumis for medical purposes such as brain surgery (trepanation).Tumi knives vary in forms depending on their provenance and time period. The best known tumis are probably from the Sicán culture (ca. AD 800-1100). Sicán tumis have a straight or a trapezoidal handle. Sometimes their handle is decorated.Tumis are one of Peru's most important national symbols. Unfortunately, until recently, most tumis were collected through looting activities.