Linear style embroidery. Detail of a skirt decorated with felines (INC-MNAAHP, RT-5996).

Broad Line style embroidery. Detail of a short poncho decorated with felines (INC-MNAAHP, RT-1422).

Color Block style embroidery. Detail of a short poncho decorated with felines (INC-MNAAHP, RT-1807).

Three styles of embroidery

The oldest Paracas embroidery styles are Linear and Broad Line. A third style, Block Color, emerged at the beginning of the Common Era and eventually became widespread.

The Linear and Broad Line styles feature geometric designs in linear array, whether vertical, horizontal or diagonal, and all elements in the design are made of a series of parallel, evenly spaced embroidered lines. The regularity of the Linear style derives from its association with the loom weaving process. In the Broad Line style, in contrast, the embroidery stitches are thicker and slightly more flexible. The background color blends in with the primary motif to produce a sort of “transparent” look. The result is a visually elusive image in which it is difficult to distinguish between human and animal figures.

In the Block Color style, complex curved figures result in more detailed body shapes, postures, attire and features. The contrast between the background color and the images makes the iconography much more “readable,” and the range of colors employed in the Color Block style is incomparably greater than in the Linear and Broad Line styles.