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The distinct shape of this gold headdress and its remarkable craftsmanship indicate that it comes from the southern coastal region of Peru, an area home to the late Nazca culture. To create the raised image on the front of the headdress, an artisan hammered the gold into a very thin sheet and then embossed it from the back.

The figure in the center sports either facial hair or feline whiskers. His hands are outstretched, with all fingers pointing skyward. This hand position suggests a call for the protection of ancestors, who were the principle connection to the gods in the afterworld.

In ancient America, as today, gold meant power. It had both symbolic and spiritual meanings. Some cultures thought of gold as rain from the sun – a major deity in their worldview. Emperors wore the shimmering metal, but in most traditions no commoner was allowed to own even a scrap. It belonged to the rulers, who could give it as gifts to exceptionally brave soldiers or others in high favor.

The four tiny holes around the bearded face indicate this headdress would have been strapped to someone's head, or perhaps to a garment. The person wearing it probably would have worn other gold items at the same time, on his head, neck and body-- projecting a bright and powerful aura. The headdress was probably buried with its owner to ensure their status in the afterworld.

Step19-Gold Headdress, Possibly Nazca culture; South Coast Peru

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