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Peru, Chancay

Doll

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Object Details

Culture

Peru, Chancay

Date

1000–1400

Medium

Llama wool

Dimensions

Height: 13 inches (33 cm)

Credit Line

Gift of William W. Brill

Object
Number

86.089.032

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Chancay doll, which may have been part of a burial ritual, is standing with ou(…)

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONThis Chancay doll, which may have been part of a burial ritual, is standing with outstretched arms.WHERE WAS IT MADE?Roughly contemporary with the Peruvian Chimú culture to the north, the Chancay style spread across the South American coastal valleys of Huaura, Chancay, Rimac, and Chillon during the Late Intermediate Period (ca. AD 1000-1450). The Chancay culture possessed a certain degree of political integration, but was not an organized state.HOW WAS IT MADE?The textiles used to make the doll were woven on small looms, called backstrap looms. The loose unwoven end is attached to a stake in the ground while the woven section is secured around the weaver’s waist, stretching the long warp yarns taut. The weaver must pull hard on the stick with loops around every other warp yarn (“heddles”) in order to open a space between the odd and even sets of yarns. The opening created is called the “shed.” The horizontal weft yarn goes through the open shed, then the second stick with the other warp yarns is lifted, and the weft yarn passed back through in the other direction.The Chancay are known more for their magnificent textiles than for their ceramics. Textiles from elite Chancay tombs include elaborate gauzes, embroidery, painted plain weave and tapestry, and three-dimensional fiber sculptures such as dolls. Fine mesh-like openwork gauze achieved a new level of artistry and skill. Women wore head cloths with complex patterns of snakes and interlocked birds. Many thousands of Chancay textiles are preserved in museums around the world, attesting to their prolific artistic output.HOW WAS IT USED?Dolls or muñecas such as this one were highly symbolic, although their purpose is unknown. The dolls may have been made as tomb offerings, or they may have been personal possessions buried with their owners. Some of the dolls found in burials were arranged in miniaturized vignettes with many characters and architectural sets. The elaborate scenes showed the subjects weaving, drinking, and participating in marriage ceremonies.WHY DOES IT LOOK LIKE THIS?Notice the geometric slit-woven tapestry face with a gold and red step-like pattern, woven-in eyes, and an open mouth showing teeth done in the typical Chancay manner.The doll wears a coarsely woven diamond-patterned dark brown and white tunic dress wound around the waist with a very finely made reverse-weave gold and red jacquard belt. The doll also wears a woman’s gauze openwork headcloth. Such headcloths were typically woven with designs of cats, snakes, or interlocking birds, which were invisible after the gauzy web was removed from its maker’s loom, and which remained invisible when worn.The doll’s narrow arms and legs are constructed from bundled sticks or reeds wound with heavy thread or yarn. The doll’s hair is made from dark yarn.Chancay dolls are frequently imitated; there is a flourishing business in making fakes using archaeological fabrics. However, such dolls rarely have the woven-in facial features of original dolls such as this one. ?To see other pre-Columbian textiles in the Johnson Museum’s collection, search for object numbers 70.166, 72.035, 94.002, 2002.121, 2002.122, and 2002.123 in the keyword search box.

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