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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Design conventions of Wari official garments MacQuarrie-Kent, Janet Diane


The people of ancient Peru produced textiles four thousand years before the Spanish Conquest in 1532 A.D.. They used almost every known technique and created some of the world's most outstanding handwoven textiles. One of the most visually exciting groups are the finely woven interlocking tapestry tunics that served as the official garments of the Wari (Huari) culture (c.700-1000 A.D.). The Wari maintained a highly organized social and economic state and its rigidity is manifested in the formal iconography and artistic conventions of their textiles. With sophisticated design principles and the masterful use of colour, however, the Wari counteracted the problems of monotony and repetition inherent in the strictly prescribed design of the garments. Few of the existing Wari tunics have accompanying scientific provenience or grave associations and therefore little is known of their cultural role. An art historical approach, however, utilizing stylistic analysis breaks the barrier created by the sparse scientific documentation and facilitates the deciphering of design conventions. Very little has been written specifically on Wari textiles. To date, the most important work is a brief article by Alan Sawyer. (Sawyer, 1963:27-38) In it he examines some of the complex design conventions and suggests a methodology for establishing a relative chronology. His methodology will be used in this study. This thesis begins with an examination of the Wari culture based on well documented ceramic evidence and continues with a discussion of provenience (when known), distribution, technology and iconography of the textiles. The focus of this study is the use of design conventions. Examination of three major design conventions - lateral distortion, symmetry and colour usage - is followed by a comparative analysis and a discussion of relevant ceramic evidence. Sawyer has divided Wari official garments into the following three types: 1. Type 1 - Paired elements 2. Type 2 - Composite motifs 3. Type 3 - Staff bearing anthropomorphic figures. This thesis is primarily concerned with the first type. The sample for this study consists of 47 representative examples ranging from fragments to complete tunics of Type 1. Through the examination of lateral distortion and the comparative analysis of relevant ceramic evidence and known textile provenience, a relative chronology can be proposed. It will be shown that it is possible to evaluate the design conventions of symmetry and colour usage to determine the rules governing their application. This in turn permits the identification of regional and temporal traits.

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