Object Record

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Catalog number 2007.11.2
Title Gauze panel
Object Name Veil
Description Central coast cultures such as the Chancay are known primarily through burial goods. Vast numbers of textiles have been preserved from the area, though little is known about their specific context because most were recovered by looters, and only a few have been excavated scientifically. Chancay tombs were notable for their textiles and included elaborate gauzes such as the cotton Panel seen here. This type of monochrome openwork with square spaces and embroidery is unique to Chancay and is reminiscent of fishing net. As such, it reflects a textile tradition that developed out of net-making needs, and it signifies the culture's long history fishing the Humboldt Current off the Peruvian coast. The panel's unusual technique had limited distribution on the Central Coast during the Late Intermediate period. According to Rowe, "the principle of gauze weave is to have two or four warp yarns [lengthwise, or vertical, as it is on the loom] pulled out of their normal parallel alignment to cross each other, with crosses held in place by a weft yarn [pulled through the warp]. The warp yarns then recross to their original positions. This technique produces the effect of small holes in the fabric." Embroidery is then woven into the gauze fabric. One of the most unusual variations of this technique creates an open mesh square, not unlike that in the Panel here.
The great Andeanist Junius Bird noted that in many of the gauze fabrics from the tombs of the Chancay Valley there were curious variations in spinning direction within a given textile. In general, Chancay textiles were constructed entirely of S-spun yarns [spun in a clockwise direction]. But in some patterns, certain aspects of images were spun with Z-spun yarns [spun counterclockwise]. In some instances it was the outline of a figure and in other instances the faces were finished with reverse-spun yarn. Bird suggested that "the deliberate use of counterspun yarns for the outline may have been for magical reasons and recommended the term "witching veils" for such articles." It is thus possible that the gauze Panel carried a kind of supernatural valence; given that it was probably found in a burial context, that supernatural element increases. The imagery itself reinforces this reading. The image pattern repeated across the textile is probably that of a shore bird, possibly a pelican, which fishes for its food. In a burial context the image may therefore promote the idea of sustenance and transcendence in the afterlife. Birds were a common motif along the coast.
Jeremy George, "The Fragile and the Prestigious: Chimu and Chancay Textiles," in "Natural and Supernatural: Andean Textiles and Material Culture," (G -T M, Queens College, CUNY, February 14-June 1, 2006), 30.
Medium/Material Cotton
Dimensions H-37.5 W-37.5 inches
Year Range from 1100
Year Range to 1476
Search Terms Americas
South America
12th century AD
13th century AD
14th century AD
15th century AD
Exhibition and Publication History * "NATURAL AND SUPERNATURAL ANDEAN TEXTILES AND MATERIAL CULTURE" Godwin-Ternbach Museum, Queens College, CUNY, September 8 - October 24, 2009.
Culture Chancay