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Object Name: Tunic
Cultural Group/Place of Origin: Inca culture, south coast of Peru
Date: Inca Period, 1438-1532
Materials Used: Cotton warp (3-ply, S-direction), camelid-hair weft (Z-spun, S-plied), camelid-harid embroidery; tapestry weave with interlocked joins, woven neck slit, embroidered edges
Dimensions: 88 x 81 cm
Credit line and Accession Number: Fowler Museum at UCLA. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert L. Lucas Jr. X86.3960.
Source: Elena Phipps, The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth. Ancient Threads / New Directions. Fowler Museum Textile Series, No. 12, Los Angeles, 2013
All selvages are present, including those along the neck slit.
Checkerboard tunics are the quintessential Inca garment, worn by the elite army of the Inca king. When describing the battle with the Inca, Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro noted that they appeared like “chessmen”. Woven in fine alpaca yarns, the double-faced tapestry-weave tunic was made by master weavers of the Inca, the cumbicamayo. Such tunics were generally woven as a black and white checkerboard, but here the black has been substituted with brown, which may have originally been darker. The cochineal red neck yoke, called ahuaqui, was also an integral part of the army uniform. The tunic was woven as a single piece of cloth with the warp yarns running horizontally across the chest. The neck opening was woven in using special scaffolding yarns so that it would not need to be cut later. The finishing of the edges with tightly worked embroidery completes the garment, covering the entire perimeter and creating a tunic that is identical front and back, inside and outside.