Textile fragment "Chancay"

120 €

Pre-Columbian era, Chancay culture, Peru, 1000AD - 1470AD, private collection from Finland.

The Chancay were a pre-Columbian archaeological civilization which developed between the valleys of Fortaleza, Pativilca, Supe, Huaura, Chancay, Chillón, Rimac and Lurin, on the central coast of Peru from c. 1000AD-1470AD. The center of the Chancay culture was located 80 kilometers north of Lima. Not much is known about the Chancay civilization, which developed in later part of the Inca Empire. This culture, which appears to have originated after the Wari (also called Huari) collapse (c. 900AD), was incorporated by the Chimú Empire and ultimately was conquered by the Incas around 1470.

The Chancay culture was based its economy on agriculture, fishing and trade. They developed intense trade relations with other regions, allowing them to interract with other cultures and settlements in a wide area. The settlements in Lauri, Lumbra, Tambo Blanco, Handrail, Pisquillo Chico and Tronconal focused mainly on artisans producing large-scale ceramics and textiles. The Chancay culture is defined archaeologically by a distinctive and homogeneous ceramic style. These ceramics are known from extensive cemeteries in the Chancay region, where they were included in burials as grave goods. They are generally mold-made of a peculiarly gritty clay that leaves an unpolished matte surface. Over this is painted a white slip, decorated with black or dark brown designs.

The major artistic achievement for which the Chancay are know is their mastery of textiles. Textiles were an essential form of symbolism to convey meaning, status, gender, wealth, and spirituality. Their technique involved were decorated open weave, plain weave, brocade, embroidery, and painting. A variety of techniques, colours and themes were used in the making of textiles. Chancay weavers specialized particularly in delicate gauze work. They used an array of colours including yellows, browns, scarlet, white, blues and greens. In type of fabric used include llama wool, cotton, chiffon and feathers. The typically geometric designs also included drawings of plants, animals such as fish, cats, birds, monkey and dogs, as well as human figures. Felines represent the earthly world, birds represent the celestial realm, and a snake represents the underworld. Apart from these representations, there is also a high level of significance drawn to the geometric structure and symmetry. Canvases or gauzes were used primarily for religious and magical purposes. They were made for covering the head of the dead in the form of headdresses. In keeping with their burial customs, members of the Chancay society wrapped the corpses of their dead in many layers of cloth and buried them deep in the ground along with various goods. According to the beliefs of the time, the threads on these fabrics had to be spun in the form of an "S" in an anticlockwise direction. This thread, which had a magical character, was called "Iloque" and, according to legend, the garments were infused with supernatural powers and served as protection in the afterlife. Feathers were inserted into a main thread which was then sewn onto the fabric.

Pre-Columbian art encompasses the artefacts created by the indigenous peoples from the second millennium BC to the time of arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, when the existing culture were conquered by the Europeans.Beyond the more familiar civilisations such as the Incas and the Maya, smaller ethnic groups were able to develop their own distinctive cultures and artistic style. Many of these civilizations had long faded by the time of the first permanent European colonies and are known only through archaeological investigations and oral history.

Beautiful textile fragment from the wrappings of a mummy bundle or tunic. Ancient finely woven textile fragment with stylized stripes. Various dyed colors including golden brown and light emerald green tones. Good condition. Extremely fragile. Age-related wear. Loose threads, tears and holes. Stains, soil, dirt and dust. Sizes approx. 10,5cm x 9,0cm.

Citations, references and sources:

To Weave for the Sun: Ancient Andean Textiles,  Rebecca Stone-Miller, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, January 1, 1992.

The Art of Bolivian Highland Weaving, Marjorie Cason & Adele Cahlander, Watson-Guptill Publications, 1976.

A Chancay-style grave at Zapallan, Peru : an analysis of its textiles, pottery, and other furnishings, S.K. Lothrop & Joy Mahler, Peabody Museum Papers Volume 50, no. 1, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Peabody Museum Press, 1957.

Textiles of the Andes. Catalog of Amano collection, Yoshitaro Amano & Yukihiro Tsunoyama, Published by Heian, San Francisco, 1979.

Ancestors of the Incas: The Lost Civilizations of Peru, Frederico Kauffmann-Doig,  Eulogio Guzman &  Garrett White, Lithograph Publishing Company, 1998.

Protective Perimeters: The Symbolism of Borders on Paracas Textiles, Anne Paul, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, (2000): 144-167.