Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of Americal 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright ©2008 Carolina Agüero


During the time in the Andes known as the Late Intermediate Period (900-1450 AD), the Tarapacá region was socially integrated with societies that articulated resources from different areas through numerous strategies of exploitation. Dispersed settlements in the region suggest methods of habitation like those known to llama caravan traders. Although it has been explained how, in this period, the Pica-Tarapaca Complex controlled the territory, it has not been studied how the inhabitants of the area understood their common identity. It might be assumed that if identity is recognized as one aspect of sociopolitical connection, then affiliation with the Pica-Tarapaca Complex would be expressed in specific aspects of material culture, in this case, in a shared textile technology.

A type of semi-trapezoidal tunic with curved borders is a garment style known to have been used in the Pica-Tarapaca region during the Late Intermediate Period. Images of this tunic were painted and etched on stone in the interior river valleys of north Chile dating to 1000-1290 AD (calibrated). These images allow the exploration of the ways clothing style is used to express cultural affiliation. In addition, the distribution of images of this garment style in the valleys that drain into the Pampa del Tamarugal and along the borders of the zones associated with the Pica-Tarapaca Complex, indicate that this clothing style was created and used to specifically display the cultural identity of the territory, providing evidence of the use of material culture to gain and maintain power.