Feather Panel with Abstract Designs, Nazca-Huari Culture, Peru, circa 700–1100 CE
Yellow, blue, red, and black feathers on cotton, 7 1/8 x 15 inches (18.1 x 38.1 cm)
Jay I. Kislak Collection of the Early Americas, Exploration and Navigation, Miami Dade College, MDC PC 2022.1.7
Feather textile panels are among pre-Hispanic Andean cultures' rarest and most remarkable artifacts. They would have been worn or used only by the elites, perhaps for ceremonies, burials, or as an offering to the gods and a reminder of their esteemed position in the afterlife. Technically complex, such feather work is often found far from the Amazon, coasts, and river valleys, where the birds lived. Their plumage would have constituted part of ritual trade goods. The dry sand burials of the coast and high mountains preserved these textiles with their amazing colors intact.
The small multicolored yellow, red, blue, and black feathers in this beautiful panel come from a variety of exceptional birds, many of which exist only in the Americas, mostly around the Equator. These include the hummingbird, the macaw, and the quetzal, all sacred and considered mediators with the spirit world. The panel was made using a technique of stitching each feather onto horizontal threads (hileras) and then affixing them to natural cotton. It features abstract designs and repetitive patterns typical of the Nazca and Huari cultures. It may have been part of a tunic, used in wrapping the dead, or displayed in a ritual context.
Photos by Lynton Gardiner. © Kislak Center at MDC.