Weaving the Structure of the Cosmos: Cloth, Agency, and Worldview at Cerrillos, An Early Paracas Site in the Ica Valley, Peru
This study of approximately 2,200 yarns and textile fragments excavated under controlled conditions from Cerrillos, an Early Paracas civic-ceremonial site located in the upper Ica Valley of south coastal Peru, uses chaîne opératoire research and practice theory to explore patterns in quantitative and qualitative data that infer weaving praxis. This technique reveals that the weavers who made the Cerrillos fabrics negotiated normative weaving practices (e.g., Z spinning) and procedural centers (e.g., a preference for red camelid hair), while at the same time they enjoyed significant leeway, perhaps even encouragement, to experiment, which in turn changed routine weaving practices over time that most likely reflect simultaneous changes in social processes.The present study employs parenthetical notation (a notational system for recording yarn structure) and a relational database with data forms to collect, store, and process large amounts of data and look for patterns of co-variance that disclose the choices Paracas people made while making, using, and discarding fabrics. The results of this study suggest four things: (1) there were aesthetics that influenced (and were influenced by) spinners (regarding the yarns they made) and weavers (pertaining to the way colors, materials, patterning, and fabric structures were combined); (2) Early Paracas weavers apparently negotiated normative practices and procedural centers while at the same time creating remarkably diverse plain-weave fabric structures; however, by Late Paracas times plain-weave structures became highly standardized; (3) dualistic concepts appear to be invoked in the choice of weft-selvage structures as well as the color, material, and width of warp stripes and weft bands; and (4) patterns in heading cords, weft-selvage structures, and the apparently deliberate destruction of fabric edges--combined with ethnographic, ethnohistorical, and archaeological evidence suggesting that borders (e.g., selvages, walls, stripes, etc.) have protective properties--imply animistic principles or beliefs.
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