This Nasca cloth is among the most famous of surviving Andean textiles and one of the museum's great treasures. On it is painted a procession of figures interpreted as deities or humans impersonating deities. The procession's purpose is not clear, but its sacrificial overtones are. At the far left, a figure touches a human head with its tongue, and severed heads tip the streamers that flow from several other figures.
In Nasca art, severed heads seem to symbolize the life force used to promote nature's fertility. Procession, apparently a part of Nasca ceremonial life, perhaps had the same goal. For instance, we suspect that the Nasca lines-huge ground drawings of lines, geometric forms, and animals-were walked by processions during water rites, since the lines are like paths and often relate to nearby rivers .
Several of the figures wear feline mouthmasks. One figure wears outspread wings, others a tunic (shirt) and either a triangular loincloth or a skirt, all items of male costume. The function of the cloth, a fragment that is incomplete along the upper edge, is unclear.
Susan E. Bergh, Ph.D., Associate Curator, Art of the Ancient Americas