Interlocking Regions A Session Review
by Sarah Baitzel, SNPA recipient
The role of archaeological textiles in understanding regional interaction in the pre-Columbian Andes was the subject of a Friday morning, September 12, concurrent session at TSA’s Biennial Symposium in Los Angeles.
Andean textiles past and present occupy an intimate role in the formation, expression and communication of identity and knowl- edge. It is therefore surprising that until recently, textile studies have played a minor role in exploring larger social processes of exchange and interaction in the Andes. The session titled “Andean Archaeological Textiles & Coast-Highland Interactions: New Methods to Reconstruct the Past” organized by Sophie Desrosiers with an international cast of participants from the U.S., Europe and Peru took a fresh perspective on the issue of highland-coastal interactions in the central and southern Andes.
Because textile traditions from the coastal regions of Peru are well defined as early as the 2nd millennium BC, this knowledge provides an excellent foundation for understanding the arrival and incorporation of foreign elements. The session’s presenters demonstrated how the introduction of particular raw materials, weaving techniques, embroidery styles and design motifs into a corpus of a long-standing cotton-based coastal weaving tradition may reflect the continuous and recurring interaction of coastal and highland groups.
Jeff Splitstoser presented Early Horizon (900 – 200 BC) archaeological evidence of double-cloth textiles from the Ica Valley (South Coast, Peru), which resemble woven pieces recovered from a highland site in Ayacucho. Focusing on textiles from Early Horizon Coyungo (South Coast, Peru), Patricia Landa traced the influence of tapestry iconography in the ceremonial center of Chavín, as camelid fiber becomes increasingly important in the decoration and design of coastal fabrics. Carmen Thays elaborated on the functional, technological and stylistic characteristics of textiles from Central Coast museum collections dating from the Early Intermediate Period (200 BC – AD 600) to draw parallels between various sites and time periods in order to identify local and regional traditions, as well as understand the influence of external influences on these local coastal textile traditions.
The presentation by Sophie Desrosiers focused on the conceptualization and imitation of iconographic motifs. Beginning with an ethnographic parallel of weaving practices and technological choices in modern day Bolivia, she returns to the coastal weaving traditions of the first millennium BCE to observe how the transmission of the “interlocking fish” design was adapted through the differential choices in weaving technique across the central and south coast regions. Finally, Ann Rowe re-evaluated the emergence of the Chancay textile tradition (2nd millennium CE) north of Lima through funerary attire, arguing for a significant high- land influence in the local weaving technologies.
The seamless incorporation of highland elements into coastal textile traditions led several of the presenters to conclude – as more archaeological evidence is unearthed in support of this argument – that the coast and highland regions of the Andes were early on connected by the transmission of textile-related knowledge, techniques and designs across the landscape facilitated by the movement of materials, people, and ideas. And while we yet lack the evidence and technology to identify the directionality of some of these moving materials or ideas, a textile perspective on coastal-highland interaction is fundamental for understanding the larger social processes connecting these diverse cultural areas.
Sarah I. Baitzel received her BA summa cum laude in Anthropology in 2004. Since 2006, Sarah has been a graduate student of anthropological archaeology in the Department of Anthropology at UC San Diego. Her dissertation research, funded by Fulbright-Hays and National Science Foundation grants, focuses on the mortuary rituals, material culture and social identities in the ancient Andes.