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The Andean Tunic, 400 BCE–1800 CE

March 7–October 16, 2011

Ocucaje and Paracas

The earliest Andean tunics known today come from regions near the Pacific Ocean in the southern part of Peru. The Ica valley, a long, mostly dry, river valley running between mountains and sea, has yielded a number of these ancient textiles, many of which come from burials in the foothills of Ica's Ocucaje basin, a high-ground water oasis. This exhibition includes two fourth-century BCE tunics from this area.

Close in time and not far in distance from Ocucaje and the Ica valley, large funerary precincts with great textile-wrapped bundles of the honored dead were placed on the Paracas Peninsula, a small, desert point of land that juts out into the Pacific. The Paracas bundles held some of the most extraordinary textiles known from ancient Peru. They included a wide range of garment types, tunics among them. The tunics, as almost all Paracas textiles, are splendidly elaborate. Exceptional and detailed in conception, with a programmed use of color, they carefully compound patterned elements. The Paracas tunic in this exhibition illustrates all three of these qualities.