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Chimú Funerary Attire

Room 12, Vitrine 156

Northern coast of Peru
Imperial Epoch (1300 AD – 1532 AD)

This gold attire once belonged to a major leader of the mud brick city known as Chan Chan, the capital of the Chimú empire. The feathers on the crown, breastplate and epaulettes express the relationship between birds and the sun, in the celestial world.

  • On the crown, as well as the edges of the breastplate and epaulettes, we find feather-like decoration, evoking birds and the symbolic relationship of the wearer with the sun (the celestial world).
  • The ear adornments are decorated with the face of the great Chimú lord, who is depicted on the epaulettes standing and holding severed heads in each hand. On the feathers decorating the crown and breastplate, we see a row of figures with feline faces and half moon headdresses, indicating their role as intermediaries between the earthly world and the world of the gods.
  • The entire costume shows signs of wear, indicating that it was used more than once in ceremonies before being placed in the tomb.
    The destruction of these emblems of prestige and religious belief at the hands of Spanish conquistadores represented a loss of power and identity for the people of the Andes.
  • This is the only known complete gold Chimú costume in the world’s collections and museums; many similar items would have been melted down during the Spanish conquest.