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Ancient Peruvian sprang fabrics Frame, Mary Patricia


This paper attempts to develop a technical feature of ancient Peruvian fabrics as a dating tool by describing its occurrence as fully as possible. The fabrics in this study share a common technique or method of manufacture which has been called "sprang". Sprang is a weftless technique of interworking a set of parallel elements fixed at both ends and it is characterized by the duplication of fabric in mirror-image symmetry at both ends of the warp. Structural peculiarities which remain in the finished fabric allow the identification of the method of manufacture. A large sample of sprang fabrics was identified, analyzed, replicated and diagrammed. They were grouped on the basis of structural similarity. The fabrics were dated through grave association, where possible, "but primarily through comparative stylistic and iconographic analysis. The andent Peruvian sprang fabrics are presented chronologically by horizon and period. Within each time segment, the sample is grouped by structure. What results is a profile of the sprang technique - the variations in structures, the modifications to the basic technique and the differing functions of the finished fabrics - as it is used through time. By cross-checking technical groupings with grave association, style and iconography, it emerges that certain technical features are diagnostic of the originating culture. The application of this information includes the identification of undocumented fabrics in museum collections and the expansion of the iconographic repertory of some styles. The evolution of the techniques of sprang in ancient Peru is broadly sketched and some internal sequencing of the larger groups of technically associated sprang fabrics is proposed. The iconographic study of the sprang fabrics leads to some insights into the importance of fabric making within ancient Peruvian culture. In particular, the repeated association of the serpent with images of fabric structures in the sprang sample of the Early Horizon illuminates the significance of fabric and fabric making.

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