Key-design tunic

CULTURE:
Inca (Inka)
DATE:
1400–1540
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General Description

Inca (Inka) tunics, or uncu (unku), were often decorated in grid blocks of distinct designs, called tocapu (tucapu), that alternated in color and orientation across the tunic. The repeated bar-and-dots motif on this textile is known as the “Inca key motif,” one of the four most common design patterns on Inca fine tapestry-woven tunics. Visible along the base, this key checkerboard tunic bears an embroidered zigzag. The zigzag and four selvedges (borders) make evident the standardization of Inca elite textile production. These uncu would have been produced by hand on a vertical loom with substantial effort invested by state weavers. Such fine weaving affirms the social status afforded by textiles and their production in Inca society.

Adapted from

Kimberly L. Jones, PhD, Inca: Conquests of the Andes / Los Incas y las conquistas de los Andes, Label text, 2015.

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