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Tunic Fragment

A work made of cotton and wool (camelid), single interlocking tapestry weave.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of cotton and wool (camelid), single interlocking tapestry weave.




Peru, Probably central or south coast

About this artwork

The Wari Empire rose to power near modern-day Ayacucho during the first millennium. Eventually, it came to control much of highland Peru alongside a related state called Tiwanaku in what is now Bolivia. Waris and Tiwanakus developed a shared corpus of imagery that was most elaborately materialized in fine tunics, which were then worn by and buried with elite men. Wari woven designs have some of the highest thread counts of any handwoven fabric made anywhere in the world.

The designs on Wari tunics are highly abstract. One side of each motif is a zigzag line that turns into a spiral (a common but unclear Andean symbol), while the other half represents a face in profile. The vertically divided circle is the eye. The N-shaped area represents grimacing canine teeth. The band with two or three dots above or below it represents a hat. While the faces are clearer in the tunics to the left and right, in this fragment the eye is upside-down and the mouth is where the nose should be.

Similar to other Wari textiles in the Art Institute’s collection (including AIC 1955.1784, 1956.95
), this tunic features motifs comprised of faces and stepped spirals, showing how highly regulated Wari designs were. But the most curious aspect of Wari tunics is how the compositions of the motifs become increasingly compressed on the garments’ sides.


On View, Gallery 136






Tunic Fragment


Peru (Object made in)


Made 600 CE–800 CE


Cotton and wool (camelid), single interlocking tapestry weave


50.2 × 53.7 cm (19 3/4 × 21 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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