Wool; H. 56 in. (142 cm)
Gift of Rosetta and Luis Slavitz, 1986 (1986.488.1)
During the centuries before the Christian era, peoples living in southern Peru produced textiles of extraordinary inventiveness and unsurpassed technical virtuosity. Preservation conditions for organic materials were ideal in the desert area, and textiles such as mantles, tunics, turbans, and belts, often of considerable size and brilliant color, were found in tombs covering, in many layers, the bodies of the deceased. Offerings such as ceramic vessels and modest amounts of gold ornaments were included in the burials. This mantle, said to have come from a tomb at the site of Ocucaje in the Ica Valley, would have occupied the outermost layer on a funerary bundle. The delicate openwork is made in a plaiting technique called "interlinked sprang," which was in use in the area before loom weaving techniques were introduced. The mantle consists of four panels joined along the central vertical and horizontal axes. The main figure appears frequently on colorful ceramics; it is known as the "Oculate Being," a deity identified by gogglelike rings around the eyes. The heads of the figures are frontal, while the bodies are in profile; the figures alternate, right side up and upside down, across the mantle.