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Most ancient Peruvian textiles we see today were buried and preserved long ago in the Peruvian coastal desert. Over a period of three millennia, Peruvian civilizations produced textiles of a technical complexity that has never been surpassed.

Where was this textile created?

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Snake Twist

South America: Western South America, Peru, Central Coast; Chancay people
Pre-Spanish, Late Intermediate Period - Late Horizon, 1200 - 1550
Cotton, double woven
71 cm x 18 cm
Gift of Thomas Kalman
T84.0290 Textile Museum of Canada

This panel is from a long burial cloth. In ancient Peru, double cloth was alternated with plain weave cloths to produce “long wrapping,” or “winding cloths” for the dead. This one was most likely part of a burial in coastal Peru and was preserved by the region’s dry conditions. The borders are patterned with birds marching in rows. The same birds appear in the central field, alternating with a motif of two intertwined snakes.

Images of birds are found on many ancient Peruvian textiles. Birds such as cormorants, gulls and pelicans inhabited the coast, and were important to the daily life and rituals of the people. What is the meaning of the snake patterns in the panel? Their interlocking suggests a relation to spun threads, twisting around each other to form yarns. Their pairing also illustrates a belief held by ancient Andeans that everything in the universe is paired and every individual depends upon a community of others.

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