Ancient Peruvian Textiles
Peru has the longest continuous textile record in world history. Spun fibers almost 10,000 years old provide evidence of the first human occupation in western South America. Elaborate fabrics over 5,000 years old survive in large numbers.
Our understanding of this astonishing textile tradition arises from the arid conditions of coastal Peru, one of the world's oldest and driest deserts. Ancient textiles, excavated from burials, provide information on the development of textile technology over the millennia. Trade in raw materials for making textiles crossed the Andes from desert coast to tropical jungle. Textiles from the interior of Peru have been found in coastal burial sites.
In this exhibit:
The spindle whorls in this exhibit were used to spin raw materials such as cotton and alpaca fur into yarns which were then woven into fabric. Each village produced distinctive patterns on the cloth, making their origins identifiable even today. Detailed fabric patterns as depicted on the pottery vessel in this display, also giving us clues as to the origin of the potter. In addition to clothing for the living, fabric was also used to cloth the ceramic figures which accompanied the deceased into the afterlife. Today, ancient fabrics are being recycled in the form of clothing for dolls.
Peruvian women spinning with spindle whorls in the mountain village of Acopia, Peru in May, 2009.
A woman spins yarn from sheep wool as the Incas did traditionally in Amparaes, a small village in rural Peru. She is using a bottom whorl drop spindle and pre-drafting the fiber before adding the twist and winding it onto the 'cop' of the spindle.