Unique discovery provides insight into provincial culture in the Inca Empire

Found Unku in Caleta Vitor Bay. Above: Sides A and B from the wearer’s perspective (photos by Paola Salgado); Below: illustration of the tapestry tunic from the position and view of the weaver (illustration by Paola Salgado). Credit: PLUS ONE (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280511

A new study, co-authored by a George Washington University research professor, examines the Inca Empire’s instruments of culture and control through a well-preserved garment discovered in a centuries-old Chilean cemetery.

Researchers excavating the burial site along Caleta Vítor Bay in northern Chile found a tunic or unku (see above) that would have been worn by a man who enjoyed respect and prestige in the Inca Empire. Unkus were largely standardized clothing that conformed to the technical and stylistic specifications of the imperial authorities.

However, the Caleta Vítor unku goes beyond the strict mandates of the Inca leaders. While the artisans who crafted this unku clearly adhered to Imperial design standards, they also added subtle cultural tributes unique to their home province.

Whoever wove the Caleta Vítor unku lived hundreds of miles south of the Inca capital of Cusco, in an area that was incorporated into the Inca Empire in the late 15th century. Using the techniques and unique style and imagery of an indigenous culture that existed long before the Inca conquest, the weaver created a tangible symbol of provincial life in pre-colonial South America.

“It represents a study of a rare example of an excavated Inca Unku tunic, the context and technical features of which provide an unprecedented understanding of imperial Inca influence in the provinces,” said Jeffrey Splitstoser, assistant professor of anthropology at GW and co-author of the study said.

The work will be published in the journal PLUS ONE.

More information:
Jacqueline Correa-Lau et al, Inka Unku: Imperial or Provincial? state-local relations, PLUS ONE (2023). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0280511

Provided by George Washington University

Citation: Unique Discovery Provides Insight into Provincial Culture in the Inca Empire (2023 February 14) Retrieved February 14, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-02-unique-discovery-glimpse-provincial-culture.html

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