- Headbands from the Inca Empire, [insert date]. The Textile Museum 2009.2.1, .16, .13. Gifts of Robert and Maria Duff.
The three headbands shown above are part of a larger group of 43 said to have been found together in a weaver’s basket. They are unusual objects, and there are few similar objects in other collections. The upper band has a bold Inca zigzag and dot design, the lower one has coastal bird designs, and the center band combines coastal fish with an Inca “X-design.” When pieces of disparate style are found together, it normally means that the group was made at about the same time. If the date of one of the styles is known, it can be used to date the remaining items. In this case, the Inca style is well known and helps to date the bands with lesser-known coastal styles.
The pieces are all small, and not all of them are finished. They appear to have belonged to a weaver who was still working on them when she died. These objects are unusual—bands of this size do not seem to have been a normal part of coastal costume. There are related long narrow warp-patterned bands in the Chancay style from the central coast, which may have been headbands, but not short ones like these. There are a number of Spanish descriptions of Inca costume that mention that women wore headbands, but few such headbands survive. Examples found at the central coast site of Pachacamac are narrow, like the center band, and slightly longer than those shown here. It is possible that not all Inca women wore such headbands, but it does appear that these particular bands might have been intended for this purpose. The finished Inca headbands have a tie cord extending from the middle of each end. However, these bands lack such ties, and so even if they are completely woven, they are unfinished in this sense. The bands with the Inca patterns have less complex patterns than those from Pachacamac and are more diverse in size, so it is likely that all the bands were woven by a coastal weaver. While small, they are beautiful examples of more unusual designs from the era of the Inca empire.
Ann Pollard Rowe, Research Associate, Western Hemisphere Textiles. Originally printed in our Fall 2011 Member’s Magazine