• South America

    Wari burial mask from Peru

    This type of reddish burial mask was made about 700 AD. It would be from the Wari people. Masks from a mummy of this preColumbian culture in Peru are sometimes found in tombs around Lima’s Huaca Pucllana. The weather is very dry there and these old wooden masks hold up well. Their red color can be much brighter. The eyes are dark, flat stones on white shells. Like ancient Egypt, burial masks were used in upper-class funerals before the Spanish took over in South America and Mexico. Death masks are used by Christians as well.

  • South America

    Indian cloth mask from Ecuador

      Q:  What is this?  Chris, 1318 A:  It’s a cloth sack with another face on the back so the dancer can never be surprised by the Devil in the Inti Rymi ceremony. Not your typical mask. They’re used by the Quechua people who live in the Northern Andes of Ecuador. These are not as common as carved wood masks, but they are used even today. You can see one of these on page 161 of Masks of the World by Ibold and Yohn. Extras are sold to tourists… and for a reasonable price.  A-  

  • South America

    Animal mask of Amazon Indians

    Q:  This was gift from a friend  (no longer here) of my husband’s. I have seen nothing similar on the web. I know nothing about it. It appears to be a bat representation. The material may be gourd with raffia.  Amy, 1272 A:   Your mask probably represents an owl. The Piaroa-Huarime Indians who live in the Northern Amazon region (close to the Orinoko River) use masks that mimic many different creatures. The black coating is actually a kind of wax. This is a beautiful example of one I’ve not seen before. It’s condition is perfect. Where do you think your husband’s friend got it?  A

  • South America

    Precolonial funeral mask

    Q  Here is a mask I have. After research I did not find anything about it, so if you could tell me something I’d be very appreciative.  Jelena,  1266 A  Funeral masks were fairly common for many years until the Spanish arrived about 500 years ago in Central and South America. So is this a careful reproduction or the real thing? That’s an important question that I hope some of our viewers will comment on. I have little experience with ancient artifacts. Wait until you know before selling.

  • South America

    Animal mask from the Amazon?

    Q:  Found this mask at a local flea market this summer.  Didn’t pay much for it, or several others from the same guy.  I have not seen any like them before.  The top is an old cloth with a soft wood framework supporting it. Not counting all the raffia it is about 10 inches long by 7 inches wide.  Height is 5 inches.  I really got lucky at the flea market when I picked up these 9 great masks for under two hundred dollars.  Fred, 1236 A:  I’m going to guess and say this comes from the Piaroa-Huarime people who live along the Orinoko River in the northern Amazon basin.…

  • South America

    Jaguar mask from the Chiriguanos

    Q:  I purchased this mask at a flea market in San Francisco a while back. The seller didn’t know anything about it but he only charged me $20. It seems to be made from a light weight wood and measures almost 11″ tall 9″ wide and almost 10″ deep. I would love to know where this is from. Dustin, 1201 A:  The Encyclopedia Britanica says… “Chiriguano, (pejorative), also called Guaraní, Guaraní-speaking South American Indians living in the Bolivian foothills of the eastern Andes and in Argentina. They are linguistically and culturally related to the Tupí-Guaraní horticulturists living throughout the tropical rain forests of the Amazon basin.” The book, Masks of…

  • South America

    Pre-Columbian burial mask

    Q:  Here is a burial masks made of pure gold from the Oro Museo in Bogota, Colombia.  Amy, 1191 A: In the spirit of full disclosure, Amy is one of my beautiful daughter-in-laws. I’m sure she enjoyed her visit to the museum. Burial masks could be found outside of Columbia in some other Central and South American countries before 1492. They are not unusual, and were often made of materials other than precious metals. The museum is one of the most visited tourist highlights in the country. It receives around 500,000 tourists per year. It displays a selection of pre-Columbian gold and other metal alloys. Together with pottery, stone, shell,…

  • South America

    Piaroa animal mask from the Orinoco R.

    Q:  Can you tell me the origin of this mask and an approximate value. Actually, most came from South America, but I know little else.  I live in Miami and and was given these pieces over 20 years ago, and so do not know the provenance.  I can take pictures of all of them should you wish.  I am downsizing my living and won’t have space to keep them displayed.  Bruce, 1177 A:  This mask is from the Piaroa Indians who live in the Orinoco River basin that is on the border between Colombia and Venezuela, in the Northwest part of the Amazon area. There’s also a chance that it…

  • South America

    Sheet metal Devil mask

    Q:  I received this mask as a gift. Want to sell it, but not sure of what to ask for it or where is the best place to sell it.  Cristi, 1169 A:  The Devil mask is the most common character in the famous carnival or Oruro, Bolivia. Called Supay, he represents the Andean pre-Conquest underworld figure that was lord of the hills. When the Spanish priest came his role was changed to that of the Devil. Many Bolivian parade masks are made of sheet metal. This started hundreds of years ago when the silver mines employed most of the Indians. Later, tin mines became important as well. Today metal…

  • South America

    Tukuma initiation mask from the Amazon

    Q:  I have five of what I think are women coming of age ceremonial masks. I would love to get an appraisal. Please let me know how you would like to proceed. Thank you very much for your help!  Nikki, 1164 A:  Thanks for sending the pictures. Instead of paying me for appraising your five Tukuna masks, let’s see if we can get some comments from from our readers. Like the one pictured here, all have descriptions and prices stapled to the bark cloth. This one is priced at $35, the others range up to $85. When were they brought back from the Amazon? If that was in the 1970’s,…