Ceremonial mask

Sicán (Lambayeque)
900–1100 CE
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General Description

The Sicán culture flourished in northern Peru between 700 and 1300 CE. This mask depicts the most important human image in Sicán art, a mythic or religious figure called the Sicán Lord. Dallas’s mask is characteristically horizontal, with comma‑shaped eyes, a prominent nose, and a rectangular flange at each side, which typically supported circular ear ornaments. The eyes of the mask are overlaid with copper, which has oxidized to a deep green, and traces of red on the forehead and cheeks show that it, like other masks, was painted with cinnabar. A similar mask from Huaca Loro (Sicán National Museum, Ferreñafe, Peru) was accompanied by a headdress of silver and gold, indicating that such masks represented an element of elaborate ceremonial regalia.

Excerpt from

Bonnie Pitman, ed., "Ceremonial Mask (1969.1.McD)," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012), 30.

Fun Facts

  • Masking is an age-old tradition practiced by many cultures. Gold masks such as this one survived because they were buried in tombs, probably accompanying their original owners in death. In 1991 archaeologist Izumi Shimada discovered an undisturbed tomb that included a gold mask as well as other finely worked metal objects that could have been worn with it. Although burial was their final use, the masks may well have been worn during the lifetime of the owner. Covered in reflective gold and silver, the man who wore the mask represented status and power within Sicán culture. The face on the mask linked him to the principal Sicán god.