Cotton, camelid hair; L. 41 3/8 in. (105 cm)
Bequest of Arthur M. Bullowa, 1993 (1994.35.120)
Among the most celebrated textiles from ancient Peru are the spectacular, large mantles that swathed the bodies upon burial of important individuals living on the south coast of Peru more than 2,000 years ago. The dry climate in the region preserves many of the textiles, whose complex structures, intricate designs, and range of brilliant colors attest to the inordinate talent of ancient Peruvian weavers and embroiderers. Particularly striking are the series of textiles discovered in the great burial bundles in the necropolis of Wari Kayan on the Paracas Peninsula in the early part of the twentieth century. They comprise a range of garment types, from headdresses to shirts and mantles. Many mantles, which can measure as much as 9 x 4 1/2 feet, are embellished with polychrome embroidery on solid-color backgrounds. Animals, plants, and creatures that combine human and animal characteristics, perhaps individuals dressed in ritual attire, are present. Human figures with weapons are common, sometimes carrying human trophy heads. This fragment of a mantle border depicts back-bent figures with grinning faces and streaming hair; they alternate position and hold fans and staffs in their hands. Their extraordinary posture has been variously described as falling, floating, dancing, and drowning.