Getting Ready for Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes

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Getting Ready for Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes

Many departments and people within the museum are working together to get ready for Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes. For instance, conservators and the curator are in constant collaboration to accomplish this goal. Between 600 and 1000, long before the Inca, the Wari forged a complex society widely regarded today as ancient Peru’s first empire. Wari: Lords of the Ancient Andes, the first exhibition of its kind in North America, opens up this exciting yet virtually unknown episode in ancient American history through 150 startlingly beautiful art works in all major Wari media: masterful ceramics; precious ornaments made of inlays or gold and silver; sculpture; and sumptuous garments from one of the world’s most distinguished textile traditions.

This exhibition will put great focus on textiles, which are the most artistically complex objects that Wari artists made.

Robin Hanson, CMA’s textile conservator, recently collaborated with Susan Bergh, Curator of Pre-Columbian and Native North American Art, about the preferred mounting method for two large fragments from an extremely fine Wari tunic that the CMA acquired in 2005 and that will be presented in the exhibition. Together they placed the fragments on a backboard that’s padded and covered with fabric of a neutral color.

A shallow, five-sided “box” of plexiglass will be placed directly over the mount so that it is contact with the fragments, and physical forces will hold the fragments in place without causing any damage. This mounting method allows us to display the fragments upright, the way the tunic was meant to be seen, without stitching the ancient, fragile fabric to the backboard. After the exhibition is over, the fragments will be stored in this mount, which keeps them safe, but it’s easy to take the mount apart in case a scholar needs direct access to the fragments for study.

Textile conservator Robin Hanson viewing tunic fragments

Textile conservator Robin Hanson viewing tunic fragments


The tunic was most likely worn by a male member of the Wari ruling elite. Although it is fragmentary, the cloth is in remarkable condition, probably because it was buried in the desert where dry conditions helped to preserve it.

“Textiles were a central medium in ancient Peru,” Bergh said. “It’s hard to overstate their importance in economic, social, political, and religious terms.”

You can learn more about tapestry-woven tunics in the exhibition catalogue. Visit the Museum Store to buy it when the exhibition opens on Oct. 28.

-- Kesha Williams