Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014


Copyright (c) 2014 Ann H. Peters


The preservation and adornment of the dead in the South Central Andes can be traced over some twelve thousand years. The potential for preservation of human bodies and fine textiles in desert sands and high altitude caves contributed to a continuing social and political role of the dead in the lives of the living. Colonial period documents describe well-dressed mortuary bundles that participated in public ritual and could be cited as proof of heritage and validation of social leadership. However, the nature of social and political ancestry and its relationship to power change over time with the development of large-scale complex societies. These changes are reflected in the types of garments used to dress the outside of mortuary bundles and their references to socio-political roles and associations. Mortuary dress in the Middle Horizon often combines garments emblematic of the entities we call “Tiwanaku” and “Wari” with garments emblematic of other identities. Here this practice is considered in the context of continuities and changes in the practice of dressing the dead in earlier societies diverse in scale and complexity, both in the circum-Titicaca region and in the Pacific watershed west of Ayacucho. Do the garments and other objects used to dress the dead appear to be the product of social groups directly involved in the mortuary ritual, or acquired in exchange relationships? What aspects of personal ornament are structured on and with the body, and what may be assumed - or imposed - as an already-made object? What aspects of elaborate dress may be recycled or reconfigured, and what might this imply about their social and ritual significance? What may be the implications of dressing the deceased in items emblematic of a political role and relationship?