The Inca unku, a type of tunic, was normally a standardised garment. Woven according to the technical and stylistic specifications imposed by the state, it thus served as a symbol of imperial power, worn by dignitaries.
A new study of an unku discovered in a cemetery in Caleta Vítor, northern Chile, hundreds of miles from the Inca capital of Cusco, has highlighted that, while this example does follow the overall design mandate and includes Inca details, there are some subtle deviations.
These include the use of very dark brown instead of the usual black for the unku’s chequerboard pattern, and the addition of solid stripes in the diamond around the neck.
In their study, recently published in PLOS ONE (https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0280511), Jacqueline Correa-Lau, Calogero M Santoro, and their fellow authors note such elements were added by local weavers according to their own regional design traditions, thereby, in a fashion, continuing their own practices within the Inca state.