Tupu (pin)

Tiwanaku (?)

Not on view

This object is a tupu, a Quechua word for pin (pithu in Aymara and alfiler in Spanish). Women in the Andes wear tupus in order to fasten textile garments. Tupus are made of metal and usually consist of two parts: a head and a stem. This tupu shows a circular head and a long stem that terminates in a point. It is similar in form to Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.606. Some scholars (e.g. Andrushko et al. 2006, 69) refer to this form as a "classic" tupu shape. Tupus often have one or two perforations in the head (e.g., 64.228.702 as an example with one perforation) that would allow a person to thread them onto a cord. This could help to further secure them on the person’s clothing. (Please see 64.228.607 for further discussion of the various ways that women in the Andes wear tupus.)

To make this tupu, metalworkers likely started with a rod of metal. They may have had access to pre-fabricated rods that they could shape into various forms. (Please see 64.228.606 for further discussion of these blanks.) On the present example, an artist hammered the end of the pre-fabricated rod, thinning it and shaping it into the head that is seen today. They may have chiseled the edges of the head in order to refine its shape. Finally, an artist may have formed the end point of the stem through light hammering. The green natural corrosion across the surface of this object suggests that copper is present in the metal. On the reverse, there are at least two golden patches underneath the copper corrosion—in these locations, the corrosion has eroded, exposing the metal. This suggests that gold is also present in the metal. Whether the gold is alloyed with the copper or whether the copper is gilded on its surface is uncertain.

Based on the tupus documented by Fernández (2015) and Owen (2012), the cultural tradition and geographic area of fabrication and/or use of this tupu may be Tiwanaku and the wider southern Titicaca region. (For more information on these published examples, please see 64.228.606.) One source of information related to provenance could be the collector. Before being acquired by grocery magnate Nathan Cummings, this tupu was in the collection of Bruno Wassermann, who purchased and developed land on the San Blas Bay of Argentina. He amassed a set of objects, especially Peruvian ceramics, through excavations in which he participated while also acquiring objects through sales. Wassermann’s collection grew substantially between 1920 and 1948 (Sawyer 1954, 1, 4). The focus of his collection was Peru, but even this wide provenance cannot be assumed for this tupu. Another source of information could be further understanding of the patterning of tupus in terms of metal composition, fabrication technique, and form, following the work of Velarde et al. (2015). For now, Tiwanaku and the southern Titicaca Basin may be considered a likely possibility for this tupu’s fabrication and use, but other cultural and geographic affiliations are possible.

Artists have chosen to represent tupus with the form of the present example in different media. One early appearance is seen on a Vicús metal figurine, dating approximately between 200 B.C. and A.D. 200. The person is shown holding a tupu, with a circular head and one perforation, in their right hand (see Illescas 1990, fig. 73). Other early examples are in the Pucara style of ceramics made by people in the northern Titicaca Basin between ca. 200 B.C. and A.D. 200/300. A particular motif on pedestal base bowls shows a woman holding a rope in her right hand to lead an alpaca (see Chávez 2004, fig. 3.24a). In some cases, she appears to wear two large tupus with circular heads.[1] The artist has shown the tupus by cutting out the design from the clay. Their stems appear at top and the heads at bottom. These ceramics were made at a time of political consolidation in the Titicaca Basin preceding the emergence of Tiwanaku as a major force in the region.

Further examples are found on the central coast of Peru, in the Chancay Valley, which is referred to as Pasamayo in the Aymara language. Here, artists produced mold-made ceramics that occasionally show women wearing tupus. The ceramics, made between ca. A.D. 900 and 1475, are pitchers (cántaros in Spanish) (Cortéz 1998, figs. 45-6) or figurines (cuchimilcos) (Cortéz 1998, fig. 2), each around 50 cm in height. The tupus appear to be appliqué—shaped separately in clay and then attached to the surface of the pitcher or figurine—and are seen in pairs, with circular heads and with a single perforation indicated on each head. As a pair, the tupus may be fastening the woman’s acsu, a textile garment of camelid wool that wraps around the body. The heads protrude from the person’s shoulders and the stems angle towards her chest. In some cases, the person may be holding an infant or non-human animal in her arms or carrying pots on her back. (For a possible representation of tupus in textiles, please see note [2].)

The "classic" form of tupu embodied in the present example thus appears in other ways—as part of other metal objects or on ceramic bowls, pitchers, and figurines. The choice that artists made to depict tupus on these objects and the decision to portray them with depth (excised or appliqué for instance) show that the tupu was and still is a memorable and recognizable item. Adorning the body, or at least in one case, held in the hand, tupus help construct the identity of the person who is created in these different objects.

Bryan Cockrell, Curatorial Fellow, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, 2017

Related objects: 64.228.606, 64.228.607, 64.228.702, 64.228.703, 1987.394.620

[1] Chávez (1992; 2004) does not identify these ornaments as tupus but the form is fairly clear. In another example (Chávez 1992, fig. 143), the ornaments do not appear to be tupus, having a very different shape.

[2] Scholars have proposed that tupus appear on the manto blanco ("white cloth") made by weavers from the Paracas Peninsula, on the south coast of Peru, that is held at the Museo de Arqueología y Antropología at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos in Lima. This multicolor woven cloth was likely wrapped around a deceased person when they were buried, probably between 400 B.C. and A.D. 200 (Museo de Arqueología y Antropología-San Marcos 2016, 123). Weavers illustrated 120 figures on this cloth, including individuals who take on the form known as "Icon F-09" ("Icono F-09"). This person wears a tunic with four long tupus or agujas (needles) that appear to be inserted into the top of the tunic, perhaps helping to secure it. To some extent, these forms also have the appearance of objects known as feathers, with an especially long head.

Further reading

Andrushko, Valerie A., Elva C. Torres Pino, and Viviana Bellifemine. "The Burials at Sacsahuaman and Chokepukio: A Bioarchaeological Case Study of Imperialism from the Capital of the Inca Empire." Ñawpa Pacha 28 (2006): 63-92.

Chávez, Sergio J. "The Conventionalized Rules in Pucara Pottery Technology and Iconography: Implications for Socio-political Developments in the Northern Lake Titicaca Basin." PhD diss., Michigan State University, 1992.

———. "The Yaya-Mama Religious Tradition as an Antecedent of Tiwanaku." In Tiwanaku: Ancestors of the Inca, edited by Margaret Young-Sánchez, 70-95. Denver: Denver Art Museum, 2004.

Cortéz Billet, Vicente. "Arte Chancay: Concepción ritual del mundo." In Contemporaneidad del arte Chancay. Lima: Cosapi Organización Empresarial and Museo de Arte de Lima, 1998.

Fernández Murillo, María Soledad. Prendedores, topos y mujeres. La Paz: Museo Nacional de Etnografía y Folklore, Fundación Cultural del Banco Central de Bolivia, 2015.

Illescas Cook, Guillermo. La edad del cobre en el Perú. Lima: Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, Ministerio de la Presidencia, 1990.

Museo de Arqueología y Antropología-San Marcos. "El manto blanco de Paracas y la expresión del tejido andino." In Colección Paracas: Joyas Sanmarquinas, 123-125. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Museo de Arqueología y Antropología de la UNMSM, 2016.

Owen, Bruce D. "The Meanings of Metals: The Inca and Regional Contexts of Quotidian Metals from Machu Picchu." In The 1912 Yale Peruvian Scientific Expedition Collections from Machu Picchu: Metal Artifacts, edited by Richard L. Burger and Lucy C. Salazar, 73-189. New Haven: Yale University Department of Anthropology and the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, 2012.

Sawyer, Alan R. The Nathan Cummings Collection of Ancient Peruvian Art (Formerly Wassermann-San Blas Collection). Chicago, 1954.

Velarde, María Inés de, Franco Mora, and Justin Jennings. "Analysis of Metals from Tenahaha." In Tenahaha and the Wari State: A View of the Middle Horizon from the Cotahuasi Valley, edited by Justin Jennings and Willy Yépez Álvarez, 166-180. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 2015.

Tupu (pin), Copper and gold, Tiwanaku (?)

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