Weaving was an important artistic achievement of the ancient cultures of South America. Andean peoples first produced textiles around 10,000 B.C. and created one of the world’s earliest weaving traditions. Improvements in technical sophistication occurred around 1800 B.C. when growing populations, large settlements, and intensive agriculture transformed the region and set the stage for the great civilizations that would follow. Lacking written languages, Andean societies used clothing to define a person’s gender, status, occupation, wealth, and community affiliation. Textiles also played an increasing role in political and religious rituals. When high-status individuals died, they were wrapped in layers of fabrics and buried with cloth offerings. This exhibition celebrates the significance and beauty of ancient Andean textiles, demonstrating the spectrum of their designs and functions. It features exceptional loans from private collections, including tunics, mantles, and wall hangings, as well as related feather, gold, and silver ornaments; weaving implements; and ceramic vessels. Characterized by graphically powerful images of deities, animals, and geometric motifs and by advanced weaving techniques, these textiles reveal the brilliance of ancient South American weavers.
Organized by guest curators Peter David Joralemon, B.A. 1969, M.Phil. 1974, and Dicey Taylor, Ph.D. 1983. Made possible by the Art Gallery Exhibition and Publication Fund.