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Woven in life to honor the dead

During the Parakas and Nasca periods in the southern Andes and in the Moche period on the northern coast, textiles reached their highest expression in regard to techniques and decorative styles, laying the foundation for an art that would later be perfected. As the initial repertoire of woven and braided structures increased in complexity, weavers also developed more sophisticated weaving techniques such as tapestry, double or triple cloth weave and discontinuous warp and weft weaving. The weavers of this period displayed a faultless mastery of decorative resources such as embroidery, textile painting and featherwork art, using these to recreate the natural, social and religious environment.

Through their textiles these societies expressed their ideology and complex universe of social relations. Textiles mediated life and death, sacred time and profane time. Garments were specially made to wrap distinguished individuals after death or as offerings to the deities in the agricultural ceremonies performed by these desert peoples, for whom water and the propitiation of fertility were essential. The edges of these funerary blankets are lined with three-dimensional seed figures and plant stalks emerging from cut off heads, or rows of humans, birds or other animals, conveying the idea of abundance and life in objects that, paradoxically, were used in death.