Golden: Quick Bite

All that glitters is gold today on Museum Quick Bites. Join me for a quick tour of a gorgeous gold breastplate handcrafted by the Chimú (1000-1470 CE) a South American people known for their face beakers, whistling pots, impressive citadels, colorful textiles, and stunning metalwork.

Chimú Breastplate (c1000-1470 CE) Peru, Art Institute of Chicago

On display at the Art Institute of Chicago, this ceremonial breastplate was created sometime between 1000 to 1470 CE. Note the alternating bird motif stamped into the gold and the multiple rows of bell-like fringe. This blingy wardrobe accessory showed off the bearer’s power and position and no doubt provided an accompanying jingle with every shimmy and shake. It’s a true statement piece!

Close-Ups of Chimú Breastplate (c1000-1470 CE) Art Institute of Chicago

Fun Face Fact:  The Chimú are also known for their handcrafted gold and silver face beakers that were used to drink fermented corn beer. Click on this Museum Bites: Face Time Quick Bite link to learn more.

Silver Chimú Face Beaker (c14th-16th century), Metropolitan Museum of Art

Archaeological evidence suggests the Chimú state dates back to the 10th century CE. The Chimú people lived in the northwestern coast of South America along a narrow strip of land that ran from modern-day southern Ecuador to northern Peru. Their capital city, Chan Chan was located near Trujillo, Peru.

Left: Chimú Whistling Pot (1000-1470 CE) Metropolitan Museum of Art

Center: Chimú Loin Cloth (c1250-1470 CE) Art Institute of Chicago

Right: Gold Tumi a Chimú Ceremonial Knife (c1100-1470) Art Institute of Chicago

The Chimú are known for their ceramics, metalwork, textiles, and maze-like citadels with decorative walls that reached up to 30 feet high. From 1465-1470 CE they waged war with the Inca and eventually were defeated. Chimú artisans were subsequently relocated to Cusco, the Incan capital. Remnants of Chan Chan and its impressive adobe walls remain. In 1986, Chan Chan was designated an UNESCO World Heritage site and subsequent preservation and conservation of the city continues to this day. Click on this Chimú video clip, courtesy of National Geographic to learn more.

Top Left: Chan Chan Citadel Wall (c1000-1470) photo by Burkhard Mücke, Wikimedia Commons

Bottom Left: Chan Chan Street, photo by Velvet, Wikimedia Commons

Right: Entrance to Chan Chan Citadel, photo by Santiagostucchi, Wikimedia Commons

That concludes our look at brilliant Chimú metalwork. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo courtesy of Pixabay.


Ancient History Encyclopedia: Inca Civilization
Art Institute of Chicago: Chimú Breastplate (c1000-1470CE)
Art Institute of Chicago: Inca Face Beaker
Britannica: Chimú
Britannica: Pre-Columbian Civilizations
Khan Academy: Chimú
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Inca Face Beaker
Museum Bites: Face Time Quick Bite (2020)
National Geographic: Chimú
Sothebys: Pre-Columbian Art
Wikimedia Commons: Chimú

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