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Tumi, the ceremonial knife

The tumi was adopted by the government of Peru as a symbol to promote tourism. Many people in Peru hang a tumi on their walls for good luck.

The Tumi is a ceremonial knife made of bronze, gold, silver or copper and usually made of one piece. Its handle has a rectangular or trapezoidal shape, its length varies but it always exceeded the width of a hand. At the bottom there is a sharp semicircular blade. Tumis were used during ceremonies to sacrifice an animal to honor the God Inti. In the Inca period during the Inti Raymi celebrations they used a Tumi to sacrifice a black llama, their internal organs would be observed to foretell the future and later they were incinerated. Pre-Columbian cultures such as the Paracas used the tumi to perform a cranial surgery called cranial trepanation. This surgery was done to treat psychological disorders, headaches or a cranial fracture. The doctor cut the cranium with the tumi, let it bleed to relieve the disturbance and covered it with a gold plate.

The best known Tumi knives have been found in archeological sites in the north coast of Peru, especially those made by the Lambayeque culture also known as Sipan. However, they were not exclusively used by them as they have also been found in archeological sites that belong to the Moche, Chimus and later the Incas.

The Tumis produced by the Lambayeque culture show an elaborated handle in the form of a human face traditionally identified as Naylamp, the Lambayeque mythological God. Some of the tumis are decorated with semiprecious stones and represent the best known archeological pieces of pre-Columbian art.

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