An ancient Peruvian funeral shroud dating back to the pre-Inca period has gone on display in Lima after being returned from Sweden. The Shroud of Gothenburg is described as uniquely complex with more than 80 hues of blue, green, yellow and red woven into a pattern of 32 frames. The shroud is one of four ancient Paracas textiles being returned under an inter-governmental agreement. They were smuggled out of Peru by a Swedish diplomat 80 years ago.
The shroud and three other pieces were flown to Peru last week, fulfilling a friendly agreement reached with the Museum of World Culture in Gothenburg in 2013.
The intricately colored shroud, measuring 41 inches by 21 inches (104 centimeters by 53 centimeters), and 88 other textiles were donated to a museum in Gothenburg in the early 1930s by Swedish consul Sven Karell. He had smuggled them out of Peru after they were discovered in the Paracas Peninsula, a desert south of Lima where the extremely dry climate helped protect the Alpaca wool fibers.
“Despite being some 2,000 years old, it is perfectly preserved,” said Krzysztof Makowski, a University of Warsaw archaeologist who has studied the shroud as a professor at the Catholic University of Peru. “Across the world, the discoveries of textiles of this age are much rarer than any precious metal.”
Researchers believe that the images on the shroud functioned as a calendar of farming seasons. They were produced by the civilization that flourished in the Paracas peninsula, in the south-west of modern-day Peru.
Another 85 textiles are expected to be returned by 2021. Peruvian officials have been working to reclaim its cultural antiquities from other countries. In June, it recovered more than 3,800 pre-Incan items held in Argentina. In 2011, Yale University returned 366 pieces from the Incan city of Machu Picchu that it had held for more than a century.