Double-walled Beaker with Mythological Scene
About A.D. 800–1375
Peru, north coast
General acquisition funds, 1969.302
This cup is the most iconographically complex artwork from ancient Peru’s north coast region. It was formed of sheet silver, and has repoussé decoration created by pushing out from the inside surface of the metal. The imagery, which covers the cup’s walls and bottom, includes a giant serpent filled with fish that may represent a river. Architectural compounds, gardens, boats, deer hunters, and supernatural beings are all included in what may be the episodes of a mythological story.
Peru’s north coast is a desert, but advanced irrigation technology and ocean resources allowed the Sicán and Chimú peoples to support large populations. Master metalworkers from both cultures manufactured spectacular ornaments and vessels of hammered gold and silver.