Detail of a textile from Nazca, Peru, AD 1-500
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    Detail of a textile from Nazca, Peru, AD 1-500

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    Detail of a textile from Nazca, Peru, 100-600 BC

Textiles from Andean South America represent a range of visually striking and technically sophisticated weaving and dyeing traditions. Nevertheless, our ability to identify and characterise plant and animal-derived organic colourants is poor and hampered by limited suitable analytical approaches.

Complex chemistry; object use or treatment; the effects of time, and (archaeological) environment, as well as a lack of well-characterised reference materials, have all meant that the analytical study of organic colourants has tended to concentrate on a limited range of European origin.

Using the wide range of brilliantly coloured textiles represented in the Andean collections of the British Museum and Musée du Quai Branly in Paris, this inter-disciplinary project is undertaking detailed chemical investigation of archaeological/ ethnographic textiles of non-European origin; to investigate precise biological sources and colourant manufacture technology, and establish the stability, sensitivity and degradation paths for these materials.