Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Silk Roads, Other Roads: Textile Society of America 8th Biennial Symposium, Sept. 26–28, 2002, Smith College, Northampton, Massachusetts.


Copyright 2002 by the author(s). Used by permission of TSA.


My recent study of Inca Period clothing has involved textile collections from three south coastal areas of Peru (Figure 1): Pachacamac, a large Inca center and temple complex just south of Lima (Uhle 1903/1991: Ch XXI: 89-96); Rodadero, a storage facility overlooking the Inca center of Tambo Viejo in the Acari Valley (Katterman and Riddell (1992:141-167); and Burial House #2, the western hillside cemetery affiliated with the Inca outpost of Quebrada de La Vaca in the Chala Drainage (Katterman 2003b). From the burial house (Figure 6), Dorothy Menzel and Francis Riddell collected and documented 120 burials plus an additional 140 items of clothing without burial associations (1954; Von Hagen 1956: 204). Gold flakes (Figure 7) over the eye orbits of many individuals in the burial chamber, including women and children, attested to their relatively high status. In spite of this, only a few burials at Quebrada de la Vaca West contained clothing of the quality identified as the fine and colorful weft faced garments of the Inca elite (A. Rowe 1997: 6-11; 1978:6-7).

Most garments from the burial chamber were very plainly woven in warp-faced tan cotton yarn. The typical outfit for a male consisted of a large cloak, a tunic (unku), loincloth (wara), small coca bags, and perhaps, a sling or two (Figure 8a-8e). Decoration on male garments was generally confined to seams and embroidered edges. Plain cross looping (Figure 29a) bound both ends of loincloths. Blanket stitching (Figure 29d) or overcast (Figure 29 f) served as the base for carrying pairs of colorful yams that crossed between stitches to form attractive patterns around the edges of cloaks.

Exceptions to the plain male garments from the burial chamber appeared in the form of colorful tunics. One of these was a finely woven dark brown tunic (M-54), Accompanying it in the burial were a plain tan cotton manta woven in two webs (120 x 70 + 70 cm) and bordered with decorative red and yellow yarn carried on blanket stitched base (Figure 29d); a loincloth (56 x 44 cm) woven in one web like the one in Figure 8c; and two slings. Bands of red, yellow and brown yarn in close figure-8 stitching (Figure 29e) joined the two panels of the dark brown tunic together in the center and under the arms openings. Damage to the tunic did not allow measurements to be taken beyond ascertaining that it had been about 60 cm wide and more than 70 cm long. A rendering of this once handsome tunic appears as Figure 12.

A large fragment of another colorful tunic from Quebrada de La Vaca West (X-5) displayed a pattern of two sets of yellow stripes between less frequent pairs of blue-green stripes on a bright red ground (Figure 5). While only the bottom, lower sides and part of the reinforcement under an armhole remained, this was sufficient to ascertain the construction of the tunic. It was of finely woven camelid yarn, weft-faced, and composed of two long panels seamed together up the center and under the arms. The seams and edge bindings were overcast in colorful bands of red, yellow and blue-green yarn. A decorative band about 0.7 cm wide clung to parts of the bottom edge. The tunic measured 83 cm across the bottom and 77 cm up to the broken area slightly above the reinforcement under the arm opening Remnants of another camelid tunic with similar striping on a red ground was collected from the nearby site of Pueblo Viejo, and the style must have been somewhat common to the region.