The discovery of the buried Inca tunic

The discovery of a buried Inca tunic has illuminated archaeologists’ understanding of the Inca Empire like never before. Dating back nearly 400 years, the clothing item is believed to be very well-preserved, and contains intricate stitched patterns and designs, providing insight into fashion styles during the era.

The Inca empire extended, in its time, as far south as Chile. Therefore, it is not surprising that relics like the one that appeared recently are found in that country. The discovery of the buried Inca tunic provides details about these ancient settlements.

A recently published study examines the cultural and political apparatus of the Inca Empire. It is done through a well-preserved clothing artifact. Where was it found? In an old Chilean cemetery, the newspaper writes Arkeonews.

The characteristics of the tunic surprised the researchers.
The characteristics of the tunic surprised the researchers.

Tunic of mighty ones

It happened during work at the burial site next to the bay of Caleta Vítor, in northern Chile. The researchers found a tunic. This was known as unku (in the Quechua language), at the time of the Inca Empire. Such a tunic could be worn by a respectful and prestigious man.

The unku had a rectangular shape. It was folded at the shoulders with an opening for the arms. The degree of adornment depended on the person’s status in society, adds the article by National Geographic History.

To a large extent, they constituted standardized attire. They corresponded to technical and stylistic specifications required by the imperial authorities. But the unku found is different from other tunics of those times. And it exceeds the strict mandates of the Inca leaders.

The artisans responsible for the creation of Inca unkus used to comply with the established rules. Meanwhile, those who worked on the Vitor Cove tunic included here some peculiarities of their own. They were cultural tributes typical of the homeland.

The discovery of the buried Inca tunic happened in the north of Chile.
The finding of the buried Inca tunic happened in northern Chile.

Inca influence

It is believed that those who wove the unku of Caleta Vítor lived hundreds of kilometers south of the capital of the Inca Empire, Cuzco. This area was absorbed by the Incas at the end of the 15th century. But the techniques and style are attributed to an indigenous culture that existed long before the Inca conquest.

This work represents a tangible symbol of provincial life in pre-colonial South America. “The finding of the buried Inca tunic is a rare example. Its technical characteristics are providing unprecedented insight into Inca imperial influence in the provinces.” Says Jeffrey Splitstoser, the research assistant professor of anthropology at GW and co-author of the study.

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