Wari or Inca (?)

Not on view

This object is a tupu, a Quechua term for pin (pithu in Aymara and alfiler in Spanish). Women in the Andes have used these pins to fasten textile garments, such as the acsu or lliclla (please see below for further discussion of these garments). Tupus have a basic form that consists of a head and a stem, but there is wide variation in their design. In this case, the head is large and almost elliptical: the head’s width (~6 cm) is noticeably greater than its length (~5 cm). There is a circular perforation in the lower portion of the head, closer to the stem. The perforation is found on the central lengthwise axis of the tupu, in line with the stem. The tupu’s head is significantly thinner than its stem. Circular in cross section, the stem terminates in a point.

Records in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas at the Metropolitan Museum note that, on its accession to the Museum’s collections, this tupu was identified as made of "gilded silver." The metal indeed has a silver appearance and some areas of the head have an orange or golden hue. Without further analysis, it is difficult to draw any inferences about the metal’s composition or whether the surface is gilded.

In order to create this object, metalworkers hammered sheet. They likely alternated between hammering and annealing (please see definition in note [1]), the latter employed in order to soften the metal and make it more conducive to hammering. The presence of the slightly thicker region of the head, just above the stem, suggests that the the workers hammered the head out of a single metal piece that includes the stem. They likely chiseled the shape of the circular head with a metal implement, and then perforated the head with a metal punch. The perforation appears to have been made from the reverse (where the accession number is recorded), as a burr is present on the obverse around part of the perforation’s edge. (For more information on the fabrication of tupus in the context of Andean metalworking, please see Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.703.)

Some oxidation of the metal is present especially at the edges of the head. There is also evidence of a lattice-like pattern in the oxidation, which may suggest the impression of a textile garment with which this object was worn and/or buried.

Before being acquired by investor Nathan Cummings, this tupu was in the collection of businessperson Bruno Wassermann who lived in Argentina. He amassed a set of objects, especially Peruvian ceramics, through a combination of excavations in which he participated and separate sales of objects. 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.

The form of the present example, with a round head, is one of the most prevalent tupu forms known. Of the forms that Owen (2012) identifies, this one has the greatest frequency (Type 1001). Of a total sample of 846, there are 243 examples of this form with a distribution that extends from highland Ecuador to north central Chile (Owen 2012, fig. 2.2a).

The contexts of known examples indicate that Andean metalworkers produced this particular form over an extensive period of time. Furthermore, over its long history of use, the tupu across its variety of forms can be considered a gendered object, typically associated with women. Beyond participating in the construction of gender, tupus, as Gero (2001) suggests, may take part in the construction of space and status. At the site of Queyash Alto in the Central Andes, tupus were found that appear to be similar in form to the present example, described as "flat" and "disc-headed" (Gero 2001, 24). The occupation of the site dates to the Early Intermediate period between A.D. 1 and A.D. 650. The tupus were recovered along with spindle whorls, and spinning is documented over a long duration as an activity typically undertaken by women in this region. Tupus and spindle whorls were found in Sector 1, a "restricted residential area" of the site, and Sector 3, an area for preparing, serving, and consuming food. Tupus helped create places through their visible presence on the body, while the people wearing them participated in activities in these different parts of the site. They also may have created status, as Gero (2001, 24) notes that people may have sought to acquire and display copper, which was gaining popularity in this region at the time.

Other analogues of the form of the present example were found at three Wari sites occupied during the Middle Horizon between ca. A.D. 600 and A.D. 1000: Pikillacta (Lechtman and Macfarlane 2005, fig. 6), Tenahaha (Velarde et al. 2015, fig. 8.2), and La Real (Velarde et al. 2012, fig. 10.2). Two of the three published Pikillacta examples show heads that are nearly identical in shape to the one of the present example. One such tupu is complete and around 8 cm long, and the other is fragmented. Interestingly, the former has a stem that is not much longer than the head is. The third tupu’s head is far more circular than elliptical, and its total length (around 4.5 cm) is much less than that of the present tupu. At Tenahaha, all of the 20 tupus that were studied show this form of head (Velarde et al. 2015, 171). Three of these show decoration: metalworkers applied a punch to form geometric motifs on the head. Investigators identified three size groups of these tupus based on their lengths: 10.7-11.8 cm, 13.3-13.5 cm, and 16-16.3 cm. The present example’s length thus slightly exceeds even the largest tupu at Tenahaha. Investigators studied 22 tupus from the site of La Real, and many of these show the same form as that of the present example (Velarde et al. 2012, 216). There is, however, variation. As at Tenahaha, there are tupus with decorated heads, with the motifs formed by incising or repoussé in this case. There are also tupus with double perforations in the heads.

At Cajamarquilla in the Jicamarca Valley of Peru, excavators recovered several tupus from funerary contexts at the base of the Sestieri Pyramid, and these are now found in the Museo del Sitio Puruchuco (Narváez 2006, 143). While the documentation of these excavations is minimal, the overwhelming majority of ceramics recovered (90 of 92) were Ychsma in style, which is associated with the later part of the Late Intermediate Period (ca. A.D. 1000-1450). The tupus show a variety of forms. There are two with heads similar to that of the present example. One of them (Narváez 2006, fig. 261) is clearly smaller: around 7 to 8 cm in length. An important point is that other tupu forms were recovered from these contexts, including tupus with small conical heads and tupus with heads in the form of an inverted heart. This suggests that a range of tupu forms were available to people at a given time or that people were amassing groups of tupus produced in different times and places.

There are two examples of this form identified in one of the contexts (#5) related to the performance of the Inca capac hucha ritual practice at Choquepujio in the Cusco Valley of Peru (Gibaja et al. 2014, fig. 41). Tupus with a distinct "butterfly" form (similar to Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.701) were recovered from the same context. These capac hucha contexts likely were created in the 15th to early 16th centuries. The two tupus of this form are bronze and are significantly larger than the present example: each of their stems is approximately 15 cm long. Sagárnaga (2007, 93) notes that the heads of Inca tupus tend to be in the form of a half moon or a half circle, and that the full circular head is uncommon. Furthermore, the scholar suggests that this form began to lose popularity at the close of the era of Tiwanaku (ca. A.D. 1200). The Choquepujio examples imply, however, that this form still carried meaning during the Late Horizon. An interesting point would be to consider whether these tupus were created at an earlier time, used and maintained by particular persons, and then deposited significantly later in these capac hucha contexts.

In summary, the present tupu only can be assigned to the wide geographic region related to these comparative tupus, which includes Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. The earliest known examples of tupus are from the cemetery at Tablada de Lurín, dated to the end of the Early Horizon and the beginning of the Early Intermediate Period (ca. 300 B.C.–A.D. 300) on the Central Coast of Peru (Cárdenas 1999, 173; Castro de la Mata 2007). The published examples of the Lurín tupus show their forms are different than that of the present tupu. The start of their contextual dates, 300 B.C., can be taken as a beginning date for the production of the present example given that the exact chronology of this particular form is unknown. It is clear though that there are parallels in form, as noted above, from the Early Intermediate Period, Middle Horizon, Late Intermediate Period, and Late Horizon. Likewise, silver, the primary metal used to make this tupu, has a long history of use in the Andes (see Howe and Petersen 1994 and Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.703). The present tupu is quite distinct from some tupus that began to be made in the Andes at the start of Spanish colonization (please see, for example, Metropolitan Museum of Art 1982.420.10). Nevertheless, people were still using tupus like the present example even after Spanish colonists invaded. Evidence from Torata Alta in the Moqegua Region of Peru, the site of a forced colonial resettlement of several Native groups, extends their date of use to at least ca. A.D. 1600 (Rice 2013, 150, fig. 8.14).

While the production of tupus has existed over two millennia in the Andes, it is important to recognize the ways in which their use extends beyond "pins," and the ways in which scholars have interpreted the uses of these objects. "Tupu" (also spelled "topu" or "topo") could refer to a pin, but also to a measurement. In the ayllu, or local community, of Qaqachaka in Bolivia, tupus are currently used to make agricultural measurements, level out earth, build irrigation canals, and mark the boundaries of territories (Fernández 2015, 11). Alternatively, Rinque (2012, 13) ascribes the meaning of tupu as measurement "to the standard used in exchanging the valuable dyes people used for wool" ("al patrón utilizado para el intercambio de las valiosas tinturas para el teñido de la lana"). It is interesting to recognize this last meaning of "tupu" considering that many tupus appear to have been prepared from stock metal. Furthermore, this raises the question of how the metal used to make them was part of a wider network of exchange. Rinque (2012, 13) notes that Aymara and Mapuche peoples have historically traded dyes for other materials, including minerals.

Tupus may be viewed as distinct from ttipquis. In the volume Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú, llamada lengua qquichua o del Inca, originally published in 1608, González Holguín (1989) defines "tupu" as "the pin that Indigenous women use to fasten their sash" ("el topo con que prenden las indias la saya") and "ttipqui" as "the small pin that they use to fasten the cloth over top" ("alfiler o topo pequeño con que prenden la manta de encima"). Typically, people use a tupu to fasten an acsu or anacu (sometimes referred to in Spanish as saya), a rectangular textile garment made of camelid wool that wraps around the body. They fasten the garment at their shoulders, and the tip of the tupu’s stem points upward or is oriented on a diagonal. It is likely that the present example would have been used in this way. People tend to wear two tupus at a time in order to fasten the acsu. Indeed, the present example may have been part of a pair. Its perforation would have allowed it to be suspended. Indeed, people may connect a pair of tupus with a textile cord, passing the cord through the perforations on the tupus’ heads and tying off the ends on the other side.[2]

Andean women may use a ttipqui to fasten a distinct textile garment, as González Holguín (1989) notes. This garment wraps around the shoulders and is referred to by different communities as a lliclla, wallkarina, tupullina, bayeta, or rebozo (see Phipps 2010, 5 and Rowe 1998, 227). (For more information on the distinction between tupus and ttipquis, please see Metropolitan Museum of Art 1982.420.10, 1982.420.12, and 1982.420.13). Occasionally, however, scholars (e.g., Andrushko et al. 2006, 75) may group all these pins together and consider them all as tupus. It is vital, though, to recognize that outsiders may organize and name these objects very differently than the people who make and use them do.

Today, the tupu may be referred to as a "prendedor" in Spanish or "brooch" in English, and the stem may not play such a prominent role in the composition of the object (Vetter 2007, 119, 125). People may wear tupus on a ribbon, connected to the tupu through a loop on its back, around their neck or on a cord tied in a figure eight around the pins; they also may use safety pins in place of tupus (see Rowe 1998, 187, 196, 209 for references to these practices in the Chimborazo Province of Ecuador).

The question of the use of tupus as ornaments and/or tools deserves consideration. Certainly, the object may serve ornamental and functional roles at the same time. The question, however, leads to revelations about the narrowness with which archaeologists and scholars may organize materials. Perhaps to ask whether they are ornaments or tools is irrelevant to how the people who make, use, and wear these objects appreciate them. Interestingly, the compendia of metals from Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile published by Mayer (1986, 1992, 1994) do not include tupus. These compendia are devoted entirely to "weapons and tools" ("armas y herrmientas"). Of a sample of 846, Owen (2012) identified 87 tupus that show clear use as cutting tools and 19 that appear to have been sharpened in some way. Most of the tupus with signs of cutting are from the southern Titicaca region. Furthermore, Owen (2012, 121) describes the tupus from Machu Picchu as "quotidian" or "commonplace" objects. Surely though, people can incorporate tupus into ritualized contexts such as capac hucha, marking out the objects as special, akin to what Bell (1992) describes in a theory of ritual.

People indeed used tupus in a variety of contexts. There is an Aymara phrase "tan tantaarapitha" that signifies "to hit with a silver tupu" ("golpear con el topo de plata") and that also relates to the practice of women using the tupu to quiet young children (Bertonio 1984; Sagárnaga 2007, 95-96). There is a case from 1827 in which a man began to physically attack a woman, but the woman, Nicolasa Flores, took her tupu and drove it into the man one or two times, killing him. In legal documents, this event was referred to as a "topazo" (Sagárnaga 2007, 96).

In any case, it is clear that tupus have an intimate connection to the body—in the hands of metalworkers but also displayed on the body. The term "tupullina" in reference to a garment in Cañar, Ecuador that wraps around the shoulders also signifies "to bring the tupu onto the body" (Rowe 1998, 233). The visual prominence of these metal objects may be heightened through elaborate designs on the head or through their joining to other ornaments by means of a cord. As noted above, tupus can become much more than an object fixed on the body. They may be held and wielded. Indeed, an early representation of a tupu is seen on a Vicús metal figurine, dating approximately from 200 B.C. to 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) (for more information on the representations of tupus in other media, especially ceramics and textiles, please see Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.606).

The tupu becomes an active and empowering object even when it is worn in a fixed position on the body. In Chile and Argentina, many Mapuche women today prefer wearing a tupu whose head is circular, similar to the present example, and indexical of the moon. Such tupus may include a design that shows the cinnamon flower ("flor de canelo"). People prefer this tupu today, and potentially in the past as Rinque (2012, 51) suggests, because "to use it was to feel like you have the Moon incorporated into your body" ("utilizarlo era sentir como tener a la Luna incorporada al cuerpo"). Such an affect exceeds categorization.

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

Related objects: 64.228.606, 64.228.703, 1982.420.10, 1987.394.546, 1987.394.620

[1] In annealing, a metalworker applies heat to the metal in order to reduce the stress that has accumulated in it, thereby making it more conducive for working. Depending on the temperature of the heat applied, the metal may undergo recrystallization in which new metal grains are created in the place of older ones, further enhancing working properties.

[2] A cord threaded through a tupu was recovered from a funerary context in the Azapa Valley of Chile (see Muñoz 1998). Also, please see Metropolitan Museum of Art 64.228.701 on a tupu cord from Chachapoyas.

Further reading

Bell, Catherine. Ritual Theory, Ritual Practice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Bertonio, Ludovico. Vocabulario de la lengua aymara. Cochabamba: Centro de Estudios de la Realidad Económica y Social, 1984.

Cárdenas Martin, Mercedes. Tablada de Lurín: Excavaciones 1958-1959: Patrones funerarios: Tomo 1. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, Instituto Riva Agüero, Dirección Académica de Investigación, 1999.

Castro de la Mata Guerra García, Pamela. "Tecnologías de cobre dorado y evidencias de reutilización de piezas de metal en el cementerio prehispánico de Tablada de Lurín, Lima – Perú." In Metalurgia en la América antigua: Teoría, arqueología, simbología y tecnología de los metales prehispánicos, edited by Roberto Lleras Pérez, 481-500. Bogotá: Fundación de Investigaciones Arqueológicas Nacionales, Banco de la República, 2007.

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

Gero, Joan M. "Field Knots and Ceramic Beaus: Interpreting Gender in the Peruvian Early Intermediate Period." In Gender in Pre-Hispanic America: A Symposium at Dumbarton Oaks, 12 and 13 October 1996, edited by Cecelia F. Klein, 15-55. Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2001.

Gibaja Oviedo, Arminda M., Gordon F. McEwan, Melissa Chatfield, and Valerie Andrushko. "Informe de las posibles capacochas del asentamiento arqueológico de Choquepujio, Cusco, Perú." Ñawpa Pacha 34 (2014): 147–75.

González Holguín, Diego. Vocabulario de la lengua general de todo el Perú, llamada lengua qquichua o del Inca. Lima: Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, Editorial de la Universidad, [1608] 1989.

Howe, Ellen G. and Ulrich Petersen. "Silver and Lead in the Late Prehistory of the Mantaro Valley, Peru." In Archaeometry of Pre-Columbian Sites and Artifacts, edited by David A. Scott and Pieter Meyers, 183-198. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1994.

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

Lechtman, Heather and Andrew Macfarlane. "La metalurgía del bronce en los Andes Sur Centrales: Tiwanaku y San Pedro de Atacama." Estudios Atacameños 30 (2005): 7-27.

Mayer, Eugen Freidrich. Vorspanische Metallwaffen und -werkzeuge in Argentinien und Chile = Armas y herramientas de metal prehispánicas en Argentina y Chile. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1986.

———. Vorspanische Metallwaffen und -werkzeuge in Bolivien = Armas y herramientas de metal prehispánicas en Bolivia. Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1994.

———. Vorspanische Metalwaffen und -werkzeuge in Ecuador = Armas y herramientas de metal prehispánicas en Ecuador. Mainz am Rhein: P. von Zabern, 1992.

Muñoz Ovalle, Ivan. "La expansión Incaica y su vinculación con las poblaciones de los valles occidentales del extremo norte de Chile." Tawantinsuyu 5 (1998): 127-137.

Narváez Luna, José Joaquín. Sociedades de la antigua ciudad de Cajamarquilla: Investigaciones arqueológicas en el Sector XI del Conjunto Tello y un estudio de la colección tardía del Conjunto Sestieri. Lima: Avqi Ediciones, 2006.

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.

Phipps, Elena. "Woven Silver and Gold: Metallic Yarns in Colonial Andean Textiles." Notes in the History of Art 29, no. 3 (2010): 4-11.

Rice, Prudence M. Space-Time Perspectives on Early Colonial Moquegua. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2013.

Rinque, Silvia. Platería Mapuche: Arte emblemático de una nación que vive. Buenos Aires: Editorial Artemisa, 2012.

Rowe, Ann Pollard, ed. Costume and Identity in Highland Ecuador. Washington, D.C.: The Textile Museum, 1998.

Sagárnaga M., Jédu A. "Genealogía y desarrollo del topo en los Andes circum lacustres." In Metalurgia en la América antigua: teoría, arqueología, simbología y tecnología de los metales prehispánicos, edited by Roberto Lleras Pérez, 83-100. Bogotá: Fundación de Investigaciones Arqueológicas Nacionales, Banco de la República, 2007.

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.

———. "Tupus y placas de metal: Expresión creativa e imagen de prestigio." In ¿Wari en Arequipa?: Análisis de los contextos funerarios de La Real, edited by Willy J. Yépez Álvarez and Justin Jennings, 214-218. Arequipa: Museo Arqueológico José María Morante, Universidad Nacional de San Agustín de Arequipa, 2012.

Vetter Parodi, Luisa. "La evolución del tupu en forma y manufactura desde los Incas hasta el siglo XIX." In Metalurgia en la América antigua: teoría, arqueología, simbología y tecnología de los metales prehispánicos, edited by Roberto Lleras Pérez, 101-128. Bogotá: Fundación de Investigaciones Arqueológicas Nacionales, Banco de la República, 2007.

Tupu, Silver, Wari or Inca (?)

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