Painted cotton; H. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm)
Bequest of Jane Costello Goldberg, from the Collection of Arnold I. Goldberg, 1987 (1987.394.704)
Cloth making began in the Andes at least as early as the third millennium B.C. and remained a medium of artistic expression and carrier of important social, political, and religious information for millennia, preceding ceramics by more than a thousand years in Peru. Many different textile structures were developed. Designs could be woven into the fabric, or embroidered or painted onto a base fabric, as is the case here. Providing a portable and/or wearable surface for the depiction of complex imagery, textiles are thought to have facilitated the spread of Chavín imagery from the north, where it originated, to the southern Peruvian coast, where this fragment is said to have been found. The motifs and painting style closely resemble those of stone carvings at the site of Chavín de Huantar. The figure's clawed hands and feet, serpent hair, and serpent belt relate it to the staff god, one of the main deities worshipped at Chavín de Huantar.