Inverse-Face Beaker

Feline fangs, rather than human teeth, suggest that this figure is either supernatural or in contact with deities.

Inverse-Face Beaker, 10th–11th century, Sicán (Lambayeque), Peru, gold, 20 x 18.1 cm (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Key points:

  • The Sicán culture was located on the north coast of Peru, and is sometimes referred to as Lambayeque.
  • We have lost a significant amount of knowledge of Sicán culture due to systematic looting and grave-robbing. These looted objects were smuggled out of Peru and many find their way to private collections and museums in North America and Europe.
  • This inverse-face beaker, made of hammered gold, shows a face in a position that would have been upside-down when it was used. This inversion may suggest the underworld, or contact with spirit forces.

Cite this page as: Dr. Sarahh Scher and Dr. Beth Harris, "Inverse-Face Beaker," in Smarthistory, November 21, 2017, accessed April 23, 2024,