December 11, 2004 Jeffrey C. Splitstoser “The Feathered Effigy of Cerrillos, Ica Valley, Peru”

In July 2002, excavators uncovered an unusual, very large effigy at the
Paracas ceremonial site of Cerrillos, which was inhabited ca. 850-50 BC.
Carbon-14 dating shows that the effigy was buried in the Eighth century AD,
presumably by peoples who had displaced the Paracas, long after the site had
been abandoned.

Jeff’s pictures showed the exquisite details of the effigy and made apparent
the tremendous amount of work that its construction required.  Its body was
covered with a beautiful feathered-cloth front, and the arid climate had
perfectly preserved its ten thousand vivid red, blue, and yellow feathers
plucked from the breasts of macaws.  It had wing-like epaulettes, and it
wore a cloth mask with a ridge-like beak.  The back was decorated with
another colored cloth made from the feathers from macaws’ backs.  Inside, a
stuffing of a wide variety of grasses and medicinal plants encased a second
cloth bundle containing a skeleton of a 25 to 35 year old woman.  The insect
remains on the surface of the interior bundle suggest that the people who
prepared the bundle carefully timed the secondary wrapping so that the
beetles that had defleshed the skeleton and damaged the interior wrapping
could not damage the beautiful exterior package.  Jeff speculated about the
meaning of the effigy and suggested avenues for future work to examine the

Jeffrey C. Splitstoser is a Ph.D. candidate at The Catholic University of
America, where in 1999 he received his Masters degree in Anthropology.  He
specializes in ancient Andean textiles, which is the subject of his
dissertation proposal, “Weaving the Structure of the Cosmos: Cloth, Agency,
and Worldview at Cerrillos, an Early Paracas Site in the Ica Valley, Peru.”
Since 2001, he has been the textile specialist for the Cerrillos
Archaeological Project and serves as Andean textile specialist for the
National Museum of the American Indian at its conservation and storage
facilities in Suitland, Maryland.

Splitstoser is also the Vice President of the Center for Maya Research, and
since 1997 he has been the managing editor for its two journals, Ancient
America and Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing.  He is a founding
members of the Pre-Columbian Society of Washington, D.C., and was its
vice-president from 1993 to 2002.  Since 1995, Splitstoser has served
periodically as a course coordinator for the Smithsonian Associates.  He is
coauthor (with Dwight Wallace, Mercedes Delgado, William Conklin, and Grace
Katterman) of “Feathered Effigy/Burial from Cerrillos, Ica Valley, Peru” in
Tejiendo sueños en el cono sur. Textiles andinos: Pasado, presente y futuro,
edited by Victòria Solanilla Demestre, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona.
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