In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Textile Traditions of the Andes

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Archaeological Reports
  • Chronology and Classification

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Latin American Studies Textile Traditions of the Andes
Maya Stanfield-Mazzi
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 December 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 December 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766581-0022


The Andean region boasts one of the world’s oldest, most continuous, and best-preserved textile traditions. Andean weavers are credited with independently inventing nearly every nonmechanized textile technique known today, and they quickly adopted new techniques (such as knitting) after coming into contact with Europeans and Asians. Cotton was domesticated in the third millennium BCE in the coastal valleys of Peru, and the wool of camelids such as alpacas and llamas was utilized in the highlands from an early date. Due to the fact that many ancient textiles were buried in tombs or as offerings along the dry coasts of Peru and Ecuador and in the deserts of Chile, many ancient specimens are remarkably well preserved. Scholars are thus able to trace techniques and motifs over thousands of years. Artisanal textile production still flourishes in the Andes today, with many weavers creating cloth for their families and, increasingly, for an international tourist market.

General Overviews

Apart from Harcourt 1962, which is still an essential resource, books covering the entire scope of Andean textile production are relatively rare. More recent works are edited volumes, since scholars tend to specialize in specific cultures. Stone 1992, Lavalle de Cárdenas and Lavalle 1999, and Cáceres Macedo 2005 cover the major textile types of ancient and colonial Peru. Stone 1992 focuses on works in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, while the latter two present many unpublished pieces from Peruvian collections. Zimmern 1949 provides a brief introduction to garment types. Readers may also wish to consult Stone 2012 for a general introduction to pre-Columbian Andean art. Meisch, et al. 1997 is a good introduction to modern Andean textiles.

  • Cáceres Macedo, Justo. Tejidos del Perú prehispánico. Lima, Peru: Justo Cáceres Macedo, 2005.

    A compact book in Spanish with parallel translations in English, presenting the main pre-Hispanic textile techniques and types. Abundantly illustrated in color.

  • Harcourt, Raoul d’. Textiles of Ancient Peru and their Techniques. Edited by Grace G. Denny and Carolyn M. Osborne. Translated by Sadie Browen. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1962.

    Still an excellent introduction to the major techniques and styles of textiles from the pre-Columbian Andes. Serves also as an introduction to the specialized vocabulary of textiles.

  • Lavalle de Cárdenas, Rosario de, and José Antonio de Lavalle. Tejidos milenarios del Perú. Colección APU. Lima, Perú: Integra AFP, 1999.

    A massive tome with chapters written by an international group of experts and printed in both Spanish and English. Arranged chronologically and by culture. Some chapters are reprints of articles published elsewhere, and the translations are not always accurate. Features multiple color illustrations of works not reproduced elsewhere.

  • Meisch, Lynn A., Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, eds. Traditional Textiles of the Andes: Life and Cloth in the Highlands; The Jeffrey Appleby Collection of Andean Textiles. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

    An edited book with chapters by textile experts, illustrates traditional textiles from the 18th, 19th, and 20th century Andes. Covers all garment types and deals with issues of historical change. Published in collaboration with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, in conjunction with a 1997 exhibition.

  • Stone, Rebecca R.. To Weave for the Sun: Ancient Andean Textiles in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1992.

    Beautifully illustrated catalogue of works in the MFA Boston. After an insightful introduction by the editor, features chapters by specialists on textiles from the major periods of Andean prehistory. Catalogue entries are extensive and learned, and feature large-scale color plates.

  • Stone, Rebecca. Art of the Andes from Chavín to Inca. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2012.

    A useful introduction to the periods and cultures of the pre-Columbian Andes, written by a textile specialist but integrating the fiber arts into the larger history of art in the Andes.

  • Zimmern, Nathalie Herman. Introduction to Peruvian Costume. Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Museum, 1949.

    A compact introduction to pre-Columbian and colonial garment types and associated jewelry. Includes black-and-white photographs of museum specimens as well as historical photographs of people in traditional dress in Cusco and Chucuito, Peru. Published in collaboration with the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences.

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