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Inca Textile Fragment Framed

Inca Textile Fragment Framed

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Pre-Columbian era, Inca Empire c. 1438-1533AD, Andes region, South America.

Exceptional and unique framed textile fragment composed of tightly woven cotton and alpaca wool in hues of coffee and cream, with delicate striped pattern. This fragment was possibly part of an Inca man’s tunic, called an uncu in Quechua. Inca textiles played an important role in both the social and economic foundations of the empire. Textile production was, after agriculture, the second largest industry in the Inca Empire and was linked to social stratification. The Incas had three categories of textiles, the roughest was chusi (used for making sacks, rugs, and blankets). Ahuasca (also abasca or awasca) was slightly less coarse, and it was made from the wool of alpacas and llamas. It was used to make clothing for lower classes. Lastly, cumpi (also kumpi or qompi), the cloth of the finest quality, was reserved the the emperor and nobility. It was made from alpaca wool and cotton and, occasionally, exotic materials such as bat hair. The Incas favoured abstract geometric designs, especially checkerboard motifs, and diamonds, which repeated patterns (tocapus) across the surface of the cloth. They used an array of colours including yellows, browns, scarlet, white, black and greens. Blue is rarely present in Inca textiles. In type of fabric used include cotton (especially on the coast and in the eastern lowlands), llama wool, alpaca, and vicuña wool. The typically geometric designs also included drawings of plants, animals such as cats (especially jaguars and pumas), llamas, fish and sea creatures, birds and snakes.

The Inca Empire (1438-1533), also known as Incan Empire, and the time known as the Realm of the Four Parts, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The Inca appeared in the Andes region during the 12th century AD. and gradually built a massive kingdom through the military strength of their emperors. Known as Tawantinsuyu, the Inca state spanned the distance of northern Ecuador to central Chile and consisted of 12 million inhabitants from more tha 100 different ethnic groups at is peak. Notable features of the Inca Empire included its monumental architecture, especially stonework, extensive road network reaching all corners of the empire, finely-woven textiles, use of knotted strings (quipu) for record keeping and communication, agricultural innovations and production in a difficult environment. The massive Inca citadel Macchu Picchu was probably built for the emperor Pachacutec around 1450AD at a height of around 8,000 feet above sea level using dry stone masonry. The economy was based on agriculture, its staples being maize, white and sweet potatoes, squash, tomatoes, peanuts, coca, cassava and cotton. They raised guinea pigs, llamas, alpacas, and dogs, and paid taxes through public labor. The Inca religion combined features of animism, fetishism, and the worship of nature gods. The pantheon was headed by sun god (Inti), and included also creator god (Viracocha), and the rain god (Apu Illapu). Inca rituals included elaborate forms of divination and the sacrifice of humans and animals. Impressive shrines were built throughout the kingdom, including a massive Sun Temple in Cusco.

Very good condition. Age-related wear. Fragment of larger piece. Loose threads, fraying and losses to fibers. Mounted in modern metal and glass frame with passepartout. Size approx. 27,5cm x 27,0cm (excluding the frame).

Former collection of the archaeologist Ferdinand Anton, Germany, combined between 1950 and 1965. Ferdinand Anton was born in 1929 in Munich, Germany. He made a living by writing richly illustrated books about the art objects and religious rituals of Pre-Columbian cultures: the Aztecs, the Maya, and Andean peoples of South America. He was an explorer who flew to South America and Mexico, and hiked to remote shrines where few Westerners had set foot. He wrote more than forty books.

References and further reading:

Inca Textiles, Mark Cartwright, World History Encyclopedia. Last modified February 01, 2015. (

Inca Civilization, Mark Cartwright, World History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 15, 2014 (

The Incas and Their Ancestors : The Archaeology of Peru, Michael E Moseley, Thames and Hudson, 1992.

Life of the Incas in Ancient Peru, Jésus Romé & Lucienne Romé, Productions Liber, 1987.

The Incas: New Perspectives, Gordon F. McEwan, Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

Ancient Inca (Part of Case Studies in Early Societies), Alan L. Kolata, University of Chicago, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

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