Camelid fibers, cotton
Height 23 ¼ in. Width (at top) 26 ¼ in.
Woven in the tightest, imperial quality tapestry weave, this tocapu tunic has on each side, as seen when worn, a major top field of identically-sized squares in over ten different designs. These are arranged in six horizontal bands of ten squares across each (for the entire tunic this totals one-hundred twenty squares). Below the main field, a single band the width of two square rows has a continuous design of connected hexagons containing and surrounded by rows of small linked triangles. A narrow dark brown plain band at bottom is bound with a multi-colored embroidered edging.
Tocapu textiles were the prerogative of members of the Inca imperial clan and higher level elite individuals. The extensively varied patterns which appear in the squares are thought to have encoded information conveying rank and privileges of the individuals wearing these garments, as well as indication that they controlled a variety of ethnicities within the empire (Rebecca Stone-Miller. Art of the Andes from Chavín to Inca. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1995, p. 210). Certain of these patterns occur as the overall single motif of a tunic which would have been worn by a lower status individual.
The visible side of the tunic as displayed has abrasions and stains concentrated at the neck slit and armhole areas, indicating that the tunic was worn in daily ceremonial life. The non-visible side has a larger number of abrasions and losses, as does the dark lower border all around the tunic.
Arte Textil (Steve Berger), San Francisco, California
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