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 (see photo).
Several of the figures wear feline mouthmasks, like the gold example shown with other Nasca art (to the right). 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.
Aerial view of one group of Nasca lines that is nearly 2,800 feet long and apparently was created in stages, the spiral and zigzag before the straight line at the photo's center. The Nasca made the lines by removing a layer of dark rubble from the desert floor to expose a lighter underlayer. Photo by Marilyn Bridges from Markings: Aerial Views of Sacred Landscapes, p. 16, Aperture Foundation, New York, 1986