What the bulldozers left behind: reclaiming Sicán’s past

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.

Additional resources:

This work at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Donna Yates, Batán Grande on Trafficking Culture

Izumi Shimada, “Sicán Elite Tombs and Their Broader. Implications”  (Institute of Archaeology, University College London, 1992)

Izumi Shimada, “Precious Metal Objects of the Middle Sicán,” Scientific American (2005)

Cite this page as: Dr. Sarahh Scher and Dr. Beth Harris, "What the bulldozers left behind: reclaiming Sicán’s past," in Smarthistory, November 21, 2017, accessed September 28, 2023, https://smarthistory.org/what-the-bulldozers-left-behind-reclaiming-sicans-past/.