Machu Picchu isn’t always the first thing that people think about Peru any more. The heritage and tradition of Andean textiles has started to make a name for itself in all corners of the world, as its significance grows to more people than the indigenous civilizations.
Going back ten thousand years at least, this textile tradition was first discovered at Guitarrero, Cave, Peru which dates the origin at 8000 BCE. It began with just twinned cotton, non-loom fabric but this soon expanded to llama and alpaca wool. This has since become worldwide knowledge.
Trying to pin how significant textile weaving is on the Andean people and indigenous civilizations is tough, because they’ve always done it primarily to keep themselves warm and clothed. It was not until tourists discovered the beauty and usability of these products that this became a worldwide phenomenon.
There are many methods by which people do weave in the Andes, and many different things that they produce from it. Blankets, ponchos, hats, scarves, belts, bags, carry cloths and waistcoats are just a number of items that are created.
Many people from outside of Peru have come to help the growth of weaving, and this shows how important it is to their culture. As a tourist, visiting indigenous markets is an unforgettable and must-see event. The Pisac market in Peru is one of the finest where you will so a great deals of tapestries, and other things, for sale.
It can be quite easy to dismiss the objects without realizing the quality and intricate detail of the products. Even fewer know of the history that goes with it, and how important it is for the Andean society. Fibre weavings have been integral to thee societies of the Andes ever since humans came to western South America.
Political and social distinction were the main two things that the Incas used it for – an example of this would be the extravagant mummy-bundle wrappings for royalty and important village people. They were also used as rewards and gifts and, even more than that, the best weavers made tapestries that were sacrificed in Cuzco, Peru to the sun.
In many ways, textile weaving was a communication system whereby the Incas could transmit knowledge. Without the alphabet, this was imperative to maintaining the Empire. Agricultural practices, seasonal time and mythic history have been communicated using this and the continuation of this knowledge is passed with this technique even today.
On top of this, girls continue to be able to weave before puberty with any spare time that women have spent weaving. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, it was alpaca and llama wools that were used most of the time but now it is sheep’s wool most often used due to the availability and cost.
Traditionally worked alpaca wool is in great demand for sweaters, quadruple the price at home, as they are popular among foreigners traveling through Latin America. Hand woven cloth makes special gifts for friends and family, and a hanging tapestry is a beautiful reminder of the adventure abroad.