Feather weavings were
crafted over a long period of time in diverse regions of Peru. The Nascas
(100 BC to 700 AD) are from the Nazca valley (southern coast), the Waris
(700 to 1000 AD) from the area of Ayacucho (south central) and the Chimus
(1100 to 1500 AD) from the states of La Libertad and Lambayeque (northern
The pieces have been discovered in funeral bundles or as offerings at
burials. They can be rectangular cloaks, bibs, unkus (shirts made from
a single textile with a central opening for the head and sewn on the sides),
headpieces, fans, hangings, and even head trophies. The weavings measure
approximately 1-1.3 m in length and are 60-90 cm wide. Nevertheless, smaller
pieces exist as well as those measuring over 2 m in length.
Feather weavings are made with natural cotton or wool textiles on which
small, brightly colored feathers are sewn. The feather tips are placed
in tight and orderly rows until they cover the entire surface. Colors
vary and range from greens, turquoises, yellows, red oranges, black and
Nasca feather weavings represent monumental geometric compositions featuring
rectangles, ladder-like motifs, chessboard squares or zigzags and concentric
circles. Some pieces also include characters with schematic arms and extended
legs, and sometimes with animal features.
Felines and a standing winged figure holding a cane are the main themes
in Wari feather weavings. Characters are dressed in tunics decorated with
colored squares arranged in columns. These representations are accompanied
by head trophies or abstract symbols such as ladder-like motifs.
Chimu textile pieces contain several characters facing frontward with
extended arms holding canes that sometimes appear to be seated under roofed
structures or on scaling or stair-cased platforms. Another frequent motif
is an animal named "dragon" with appendages on its head, nabbed body and
curled tail, which is represented as a profile or in a sitting position.
The Chimu subject matter also deals with themes based on coastal flora
and fauna. There is also a wide variety of animals used, especially felines,
llamas, alpacas, snakes, birds, and fishes. There are also feather weavings
covered with small sheets of silver and gold.
These textiles have
been rarely found in archaeological excavations. They are mostly the product
of chance discoveries and grave looting.
The scientific value of these exceptional pieces lies in the skill used
to elaborate them, which is unique in its genre.
In 1943, 8 pitchers of the Wari culture containing 96 feathered cloaks
were discovered by chance in the province of Condesuyos. A team from the
National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology was dispatched but scientific
excavations only revealed 8 empty pitchers.
- Fundación el Monte,
[ et al. ].Wari: Arte precolombino peruano. Sevilla, Centro Cultural
El Monte/Lima, INC, Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia
del Perú, 2000.
- Lavalle, José
Antonio de. Culturas precolombinas, Lima, Banco de Crédito del
- Reid, William.
Culturas precolombinas: Huari. Lima, Banco de Crédito del Perú,
- Sawyer, Alan R.
Early Nasca needlework. London, Laurence King, 1997.