Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Tapestry Fragment with Monkeys



Tapestry Fragment with Monkeys


Tinku, the way that two things can come together to produce a third, is a key Quechua concept. While the rows of tiny woven monkey motifs on the piece at left, barely an inch tall each, are very charming and impressive, they are out of place geographically. This textile was woven 600–1000 years ago on the dry desert coast of what is now central Perú, by the Chancay culture. This is not an area in which monkeys naturally live; rather, they thrive in the Amazonian rainforest hundreds of miles and thousands of vertical feet east of the coast. While they could have been transported and kept on the coast, monkeys are still from elsewhere and so depicting them in a new context constitutes a geographical manifestation of tinku.

In Andean antiquity, this kind of exporting from one area to another—highland llamas or pumas to the coast, lowland caiman or jaguars to the mountains—was common. There is, and always has been, power in the unfamiliar, the out of place, the novel. Furthermore, in the Andes when regions and their products and natural elements are combined, there is a greater chance of survival for all.


Geographic Area

South America, Central Andes, Central Coast




Late Intermediate Period, ca. 1000-1470 AD


Cotton, camelid fiber

Credit Line

Gift of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey

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