Trophy Head
Nazca/Wari, south coast of Peru
23 x 31 cm (9 x 12 in)

A trophy head, embellished with cloth, feathers and human hair, characteristic of the south coast Nazca culture. Textile and ceramic art contains frequent representations of trophy heads, either as autonomous graphic emblems or as objects held in the hands of dignities.

Although the perceived acquisition of an enemy's power by taking his head as a trophy was not peculiar to ancient Peru, it was Andean artists who perhaps devised its widest variety of decorative representations. Possession of an adversary's skill was thus believed to endow the owner with corollary authority, exemplified by an ancient Quechua poem:

"We shall drink from the Traitor's skull.
We shall wear his teeth as a necklace
Of his bones we shall make flutes
Of his skin we shall make a drum
Later we'll dance."

Text and illustration © Textile & Art Publications 1997:
not to be reproduced without permission.

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