textile, 2.4 x 1.3 m
of Chimu textile, 40 x 38 cm
of Wari textile,
25 x 8 cm
Of the textiles of
ancient Peru, preserved within funeral bundles, the ones that stand out
are the richly decorated cloaks of the Paracas culture (as well as its
later evolution in Nasca) of the southern coast of Peru (400 BC to 700
AD) and the textiles of the subsequent Wari, Chimu, and Chancay cultures.
Paracas cloaks are rectangular with an average length size of 2.4 m by
1.2 m in width. They are big cotton textiles dyed with intense colors,
covered in embroidered motifs and woven with brightly colored (red, blue,
green, yellow, etc.) cotton or wool threads and in some cases with human
These cloaks are frequently finished off by a wide edge with fringes that
contrast with the central cloth. On a red or black background, the usual
decorative motifs are repeated in an orderly fashion: stylized jaguars,
fishes, fruits, and flowers. However, the most important motif is the
profile of a human figure whose head faces the viewer, with a mask and
a hairpiece with some type of animal element (usually a feline with snake
appendages), weapons and a human head fastened by the hair.
The Wari textiles (700 to 1000 AD) found throughout Peru, are characterized
by geometric designs that are alternated forming varied compositions,
and animal motifs and characters with animal masks, all of them with a
The Chimu textiles (1100 to 1500 AD) of the northern coast of Peru, tend
to have stylized human motifs, birds, fishes, spirals and other geometric
figures that repeat themselves in friezes. These textiles can be covered
with small sheets of silver and gold.
Amongst the fabrics of ancient Peru, the unkus stand out. Unkus are shirts
made from a single piece of fabric with a central opening for the head
and sewn on the sides. There are also bags with ribbons used for carrying,
finished off by tassels, narrow strips, folds, caps, hairpieces and wigs,
and other textiles, all of a delicate nature and with bright colors.
Also outstanding are the gauzes from the Chancay culture, on the central
coast of Peru (900 to 1500 AD).They are rectangular and measure between
75 cm and 1.2 m in length and 75 to 80 cm in width. They are made from
white, drawn cotton and the threads are intertwined rather than paralleled.
The threads form geometric designs, of very stylized birds and fishes
that stand out subtly from between the threads of the gauze.
Textiles are one of
the most ancient and more elaborate means of artistic expression of ancient
Peru. The Paracas cloaks were discovered in scientific excavations carried
out in ancient necropolis in 1925, and since then they have been looted,
putting them at great risk.
Nonetheless, all Peruvian fabrics are at risk and in need of protection.
Looting causes the destruction of funeral bundles and the loss of valuable
information necessary for reconstructing, not only the buried person's
life, but also that of the entire clan, since the burials were of a familiar
and collective nature.
- 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.
- Paul, Anne (ed.).
Paracas Art and Architecture: Object and Contex in South Coastal
Peru. Iowa, University of Iowa Press, 1991.
- Reid, William.
Culturas precolombinas: Huari. Lima, Banco de Crédito del Perú,
- Sawyer, Alan R.
Early Nasca needlework. London, Laurence King, 1997.