The fine weaving of this narrow band, with eccentric wefts that follow the diagonals of the design, marks it as a special item. Among the brilliantly dyed blue, yellow and red yarns, a fuzzy, coffee-colored yarn stands out. The fiber source may be an extremely fine camelid, such as the wild guanaco, or rabbit hair, or viscacha—the precious chinchilla whose soft, silky hair was so prized by the Andean people. These fibers, identifiable by their texture and color, signal luxury and possibly religious meaning. The cloudlike, arched forms are followed by the zigzag design, a universal representation of lightning. Among the Inca, lightning represented a major god known as Llalapa, lending an aura of mystical or shamanistic engagement to the workings of the universe that may have been thought come into play through the wearing of this band.
Elena Phipps, PhD in Pre-Columbian Art History (Columbia University), is formerly a textile conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where in 2004, she was also curator for the special exhibition The Colonial Andes: Tapestries and Silverwork, 1520-1820, whose exhibition catalogue was award both the Mitchel Prize and the Alfred Barr Jr. Award. Her book Looking at Textiles was published by Getty Publications, 2011. She is a co-curator of the exhibition The Interwoven Globe: textiles and trade 16th-18th centuries, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Fall 2013) and guest curator for the forthcoming exhibition The Peruvian Four-Selvaged Cloth: ancient threads/ new directions at the Fowler Museum in Los Angeles (Oct, 2014).