Paracas Peninsula, south coast, Peru
100 B.C./A.D. 200
238.1 x 106.7 cm (93 3/4 x 42 in.)
Emily Crane Chadbourne Fund, 1970.293
This Paracas mantle from Peru features 49 figures of ritually costumed priests, each clutching an animal by his side. Both priests and animals display human and animal traits, illustrating the religious connections between the social and natural orders. Mantles of this complexity belonged to the ruling elite and were worn only on important religious and festive occasions. Some were intended as burial clothes to be worn in the afterlife, representing the deceased’s status and office in the land of the ancestor spirits.
The people of the Paracas peninsula on Peru’s south coast are known for producing beautiful and artistic textiles that influenced ensuing cultures through the time of the Inca in the 16th century. The dry climate of the Peruvian coast has preserved a great number of these objects. Before designers and weavers could begin working on textiles, other professionals were required. Animal-husbandry specialists bred animals for their fine wool. Dyers working with a limited number of plants and insects created distinctive, long-lasting colors. Highly skilled spinners produced thread that remains unequalled in its consistency. Peruvian weaving remains one of the finest traditions in the world.
See a detail of the priest and animal motif used in the mantle on the right.