Biography and Symbolism of Sicán Painted Textiles: First Approximation


Simple cotton cloths primed as canvases and painted with complex imagery are the rarest group of fiber arts found in the Andes. Long-term excavations of Middle Sicán (900-1100 CE) elite cemeteries at the site of Sicán on the North Coast of Peru, however, have shown that high quantities of these paintings, often in polychrome and over 10m in length, decorated the interior surfaces of elite tombs. In this paper we present evidence for their manufacture and use, as well as approaches to preserving and reconstructing their rich iconographic content. The use of cane or wooden frames and supports, as well as the portability and varied imagery, size and shape of cloths suggest that they were used as situationally adaptable means of creating appropriate ritual spaces in the world of both the living and the dead. Additionally, using the documented examples from attached cemeteries of two major temple mounds at Sicán, we compare painted textiles from two distinct contexts as a new line of evidence for understanding how deceased individuals in tombs associated with each temple may have differentiated their socio-political station, economic roles, or familial ties through visual culture in death.

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Cite this Record

Biography and Symbolism of Sicán Painted Textiles: First Approximation. Amy Szumilewicz, Izumi Shimada, Carlos Elera Alvarado, César Samillán Torres. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 398297)

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andes Sican Textile

Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;