In 2010 we first observed bold blue designs on the hands and forearms of Wari Kayan individuals 113 and 114, sent by Tello to be studied and exhibited in New York in 1937 and curated since then by the American Museum of Natural History. After also observing beautifully preserved oval ‘s’ forms and wide stripes on the inner knee and the palm of the hand, we re-examined the archival descriptions of “tattooing” on a number of individuals from the Paracas Necropolis. In 2012 we received permission from the Ministry of Culture to examine a group of individuals at the Museo National (MNAAHP) originally described as “tattooed” or “painted.” Elsa Tomasto and Mellisa Lund carried out a bioanthropological analysis to determine their sex, age and other aspects of their health and activities, while Ann Peters reviewed the artifact associations.
With permission from the MNAAHP, Tomasto took samples from four individuals for examination under a scanning electron microscope by Gladys Ocharán at MyAP, in order to examine evidence for superimposition of layers of pigment and skin, textures, and the profile of different minerals present. Conservator Carmen Carranza and Flor Bobadín (Human Remains, MNAAHP) accompanied the samples.
Here you can see the sample, part of a finger from WK 70, a woman buried with textiles related to the Paracas Tradition. The other frames demonstrate evidence for layering and texture of the pigment and skin.
We returned to the American Museum of Natural History in 2013 to reexamine the individuals whose beautiful designs first impressed us.
We are working with Anthropology Conservator Judith Levinson and intern Dawn Lohnas, who have taken a series of micro-photographs and propose a research collaboration with scientists at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to determine the nature of the pigments and their method of application.