Inlaid Snuff Tray

Inlaid Snuff Tray

200–400 CE
Northern Chile
tray, snuff
Wood, stone, turquoise, shell, and gold
Accession Number
Credit Line
Department acquisition and Volunteer Endowment Funds

Unknown Tiwanaku artist, Bolivia or northern Chile. Inlaid Snuff Tray, 200–400 CE. Wood, stone, turquoise, shell, and gold, 2 ¾ x 3 ¼ x 6 ¾ inches. Denver Art Museum Collection: Department acquisition funds and Volunteer Endowment Funds, 2000.211.

height: 2.75 in, 6.9850 cm; width: 3.188 in, 8.0975 cm; depth: 6.75 in, 17.1450 cm
Mayer Center, Arts of the Ancient Americas
Arts of the Ancient Americas
This object is currently on view

Inlaid Snuff Tray
About  A.D. 200–400
Northern Chile
Wood, stone, turquoise, shell, and gold
Department acquisition and volunteer endowment funds, 2000.211

This snuff tray is one of the most extraordinary objects to survive from the ancient Tiwanaku culture.  The capital of this state was located in highland Bolivia, near Lake Titicaca, but its economic and cultural reach extended to areas now located in Peru and Chile.  In Tiwanaku culture, methods of contacting the spirit world included prayers, sacrifices, and the ingestion of hallucinogenic snuffs.  Snuff trays, used for mixing and serving the powders, were carved of wood or, more rarely, stone.  The trays were frequently decorated with low relief images of deities and supernatural creatures; occasionally they were inlaid with turquoise.  This tray is exception for the oval shape of the tray, the fully three-dimensional carving of the figure, and its exceptional detailing with bone, shell, turquoise, and gold foil.  The supernatural creature on the handle wears a collar and an elaborate headdress.  It probably once grasped a human trophy head.

Exhibition History
  • "Tiwanaku: Ancestors of the Inca"— Denver Art Museum, 10/16/2004 - 1/23/2005

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