Kyle Marini conducting research

Art history graduate student spends summer sling-braiding in Peru

By Ainsley Spitz

During summer 2023, Art History doctoral student Kyle Marini traveled to Spain and Peru in search of answers from the past.

Marini is a third-year Ph.D. student whose dissertation research took him halfway across the world to study the art of Andean sling-braiding, focusing on textiles reminiscent of a 700-foot rope that was featured in Inca imperial processions from about 1450 to 1532.

Marini lived in Spain from May 29 to July 9, working with ancient Andean textile collections at the Museo de América, Museo del Traje and Museo Nacional de Antropología to document the textiles’ woven/braided structures.

During his time abroad, Marini was even able to try the art of sling-braiding himself.

“I will rely upon the sling-braiding techniques I learned in Chinchero [Peru] to inform the observations I am able to deduce surrounding how archaeological slings were made, and their use,” he said.

Marini incorporates science into his interdisciplinary studies.

“I procured 13 fiber samples from slings at Museo de América for radiocarbon dating and stable isotope analysis,” he said.

At Penn State, he will work in the Radiocarbon Lab to determine the age of the slings within a range of 25 years. Then, the remaining fibers will be sent to the Laboratory for Isotopes and Metals in the Environment (LIME) at Penn State to test for stable isotopes, which can approximate where the fibers originated.

However, Marini’s interests go beyond sling-braiding.

During August he was in Peru studying the Quechua language, which was spoken by the Incas and is still spoken by more than 10 million people across the globe today.

“A highlight of my time in Madrid…involved the happenstance of meeting and conversing with a native Quechua speaker from Bolivia the day before my placement interview for my language program,” Marini said.

Marini does not claim to be fluent in Quechua, but he works towards that goal by using the language with people he encounters.

While in Peru, he also researched more slings in museums in Lima.

“By learning traditional sling-braiding, I am able to discern how archaeological examples in museum collections are made and even infer their probable use,” Marini said.

Looking forward, Marini will work closely with his advisor, Amara Solari, to write his dissertation on the Inca rope. When he graduates, he will pursue a career as a research professor of art history.

To find out more about Marini’s work, visit his website at