Date of Award

May 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Jean Hudson

Committee Members

Dawn Scher Thomae, W. Warner (Bill) Wood


Archaeological Collections, Archaeological Research, Featherwork, Limited-provenience, Peru, Pre-columbian


The Milwaukee Public Museum (MPM) has a collection of 134 archaeological Peruvian featherworked items accessioned in the last century with minimal provenience information. The collection is composed primarily of feather fans and ornamental devices with the remainder being sections of tunics and smaller apparel items. Due to the long-standing prevalence of grave looting in Peru and subsequent sale to collectors, many ancient Andean examples in modern museums are bereft of contextual information. Archaeological collections with limited excavation provenience may be viewed as having less research potential. However, the artifacts themselves may carry indications of their original context. As a result, limited-provenience collections can still be used to further our knowledge using a combination of research and analysis techniques.

This thesis uses the following analytical approaches to study the MPM Peruvian archaeological featherwork collection: 1) literature review of relevant featherwork, textile, art history, and archaeological studies; 2) consultation with scholars and other experts; 3) grouping and categorizing the artifacts in the collection by structural commonalities; 4) detailed examination of the MPM artifacts' raw materials and methods of construction; 5) comparison to extant featherwork collections in other museums; and 6) use of ethnographic and ethnohistorical studies of similar objects. Special emphasis and analysis is focused on the fans, plumes, and headdress pieces as these types of artifacts have received less attention in prior studies.