100 Years – 100 Objects: Feather Poncho

September 29, 2009

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dirk, the museum’s curator of anthropology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent human cultures throughout time and around the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org – throughout the year.

Pre-Columbian feather poncho, Nazca culture (400- 500 AD)

Feather PonchoThis centuries-old poncho from Nazca, Peru is incredibly well preserved. Dated to 400- 500 AD, it provides an excellent teaching tool to illustrate the role of climate in preserving perishable items like these.

Feather work of this nature may have existed in the Gulf region of the US. Hot and humid conditions prevalent in this region ensured that none of these items would have preserved like this poncho. Low humidity and great climatic stability along the coastal zone of Peru, like the Nazca region, resulted in incredible preservation rates as seen here.

The poncho also reflects the long distance trade routes in existence in Pre-Columbian South America, bringing feathers across the Andes from the Amazon basin.

Explore thousands of years of Native American history in the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

Authored By Dirk Van Tuerenhout

As curator of anthropology, Dirk is responsible for the museum’s artifact collection and is involved in its temporary and permanent anthropology exhibits. Dirk is an expert in human cultures; he curates the Museum’s Hall of the Americas and specializes in native American cultures like the Aztec and Maya.

One response to “100 Years – 100 Objects: Feather Poncho”

  1. Nathan says:


    My name is Nathan Rice, and I’m a student at Post Oak High School. Our Anthropology class is currently working a project having to do with any ancient artifact, and our group happened to choose one from the Hall of the Americas, the Wari Feather Poncho. However, there is not a huge amount of information surrounding the artifact, with the only article I could find coming from the museums own BEYONDbones blog, here. Is there any other info covering the poncho, such as its discovery site and date, and who may have been involved with it? I understand this is on short notice, but an answer as soon as possible would be much appreciated.

    Thank you, and have a wonderful afternoon.
    -Nathan Rice

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