Ornamental Plume

Date: 200 B.C.–A.D. 400

Geography: Peru, Cusco region

Culture: Pukara (or early Tiwanaku)

Medium: Gold

Dimensions: H. 5 in. × W. 2 1/2 in. (12.7 × 6.4 cm)

Classification: Metal-Ornaments

Credit Line: Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.14


This rare, elaborately decorated plume is considered to be Pukará in style, associated with the archaeological site of the same name near Lake Titicaca in the southern Andean highlands. Pukará ceramics, textiles, and stone works are technologically sophisticated and may be ancestral to the later Tiwanaku developments.

The exceptionally complex chased and cutout design on the front and back of the plume seems to depict a ritual event in which animals and richly clothed individuals participate. Perhaps an animal sacrifice is taking place. The tall, front-facing figure at the top has an unusually large head. Possibly wearing a mask with big ringed eyes, a snoutlike nose, and a broad mouth showing fangs, it is surrounded by raylike appendages. The rest of the figure is in profile and strides forward. Beneath him is a corral-like enclosure with four spotted animals in it, possibly llamas or other camelids. Three complex profile figures, one carrying an animal on his back, surround the enclosure.

The plume may have been worn as an ornament in the headdress of an important individual, or as a pin to be worn in mantles. It is known as the Echenique Plume for its nineteenth-century owner.