Chancay (Pre-Columbian) Mummy Bundle Mask, c. 1600
Painted wood, textiles
15 x 8 in
Price on Request
The Peruvian Chancay (pre-Columbian) Mummy Bundle mask, from around 1600 is made of painted wood, textiles, and human hair. According to the Walters Art Museum: Andean cultures are located close to some of the most arid deserts in the world, and perhaps the natural mummification that ancient peoples there observed inspired them to adapt their mortuary practices to augment natural processes. In many cultures of the region, bodies were carefully prepared to last for centuries or millennia, and were buried with elaborate offerings, always including large quantities of textiles. Since bodies were usually buried in an upright fetal position (with head on knees), when wrapped with layers and layers of lavish textiles, the mummy bundles did not have a clear head to act as a focal point for veneration. Therefore, 'false heads' or wrapped textiles were created for the top of such bundles, and in some cases wooden masks, showing a stylized face, were tied on to such bundles. For the Chancay people, these were not portraitlike, but had very simplified features, with wide, diamond-shaped eyes and long straight noses, as well as frequently including a 'wig' of hair that hangs down on either side of the face. More elaborate textiles are also often wrapped around the top of such masks, imitating the turbanlike headcoverings worn by the Chancay. These are often painted red, a color associated with purifying or commemorative rituals in the Andes. In this case, it appears that the mask was wrapped in more textiles, which over time has left a patterned impression. It is clear from the items excavated from the burial sites that textiles were extremely important and valuable to the Chancay people, particularly to their funerary rituals.