Unknown artist, Paracas, Peru; Paracas Peninsula
Alpaca wool and cotton plain weave with wool embrodiery knit stem stitch
127 cm (50 inches) (length)
Museum Appropriation Fund 40.190
By the first millennium BCE, a flourishing weaving culture in which textiles served sacred functions was well established on Peru’s Paracas Peninsula. Rituals concerning death, fertility, and regeneration were an important part of ancient Peruvian culture, and quantities of elaborate textiles played a large part in ceremonies and suggested wealth and status. This embroidered mantle, made as a burial offering, displays a mythological figure repeated in a checkerboard pattern. The figure wears a mouth mask and headdress similar in style to those of ancient Peruvian gold ornaments. It has serpent-like appendages protruding from its mouth and back, and it wields a staff bearing a string of beans. Along the bottom of the figure’s tunic are tiny representations of trophy heads, important symbols in ancient Peru.