Loin cloth fragment

Chimú people buried their elite with large quantities of textiles. The discoloured areas on this loin cloth are a result of contact with a decomposing body. The central figure wears a crescent headdress that evokes the moon, the principal Chimú deity. The moon was considered mightier than the sun because it appeared in both the daytime and nighttime sky.

Collection Connections 

  • Mantle panel fragment

    Mantle panel fragment

    South America: Western South America, Peru, Central Coast

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  • Border


    South America: Western South America, Peru

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  • Fragment


    South America: Western South America, Peru, North Coast

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How is this loin cloth different than everyday loin cloths and those from other parts of the world?

responded: Apr 2, 2013

Posted by Ashley Sarsam

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For the past two months I have been engaging with this fascinating textile. I believe that my interactions with it have offered me really interesting perspectives from which to look at museum objects and how institutional collections impact the objects they covet and display. Throughout my research and engagement with the loincloth I found that the object's sacredness and associations with death, although mentioned, have never been highlighted to the extent its original owners had intended for. After all, this piece once laid on a decomposing body; this is as close to death as an object can get. I have created a diorama to portray how museums and museum visitors often disassociate artefacts from their original identities, especially when they are sacred, in order to better relate to the objects. The closed diorama looks like a stage, with red curtains pulled back, implying that the show is about to start. Objects are always performing, although the narrative often changes as different stakeholders get involved. Inside the diorama I have set up a tomb, so that the stage is actually the burial site of the Chimú man who once wore the loincloth. There are tourists taking photos and posing with the man and the textile. This is meant to represent the fascination with funerary objects, but the immediate disassociation with death, despite the fact that the tourists are literally in the tomb. This submission is simply meant to offer a new take on museums and the objects within them. It is important to remember the social life of artefacts and pay homage to the experiences they once had.

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