Ancient Peruvian Textiles
Peru has the longest continuous textile record in world history. Simple spun fibres almost 10,000 years old provide evidence of the first human occupation in western South America. Elaborate fabrics, dating from 3000 BC up to the present, survive in large numbers.
Our knowledge of this extraordinary 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.
The first textile use in Peru followed the reliance of these coastal people on the sea for their food: they fashioned nets, lines, and woven-fibre boats. Textiles and textile designs ultimately came to underpin and shape all kinds of material culture. Even elaborately thatched roofs and fibre bridges were based on fabric technology.
The Spanish went to South America in search of gold. At their first meeting, the Inca offered the Spanish conquistadores their highest riches - textiles.