Textiles from the Andes

Textiles from Andean South America represent a range of visually striking and technically sophisticated weaving and dyeing traditions.

The British Museum collection of over 900 early Andean textiles comprises a representative sample of techniques and materials used over 2,000 years in the Andean weaving tradition of the coastal and highland regions. The textiles, preserved by the arid conditions of coastal desert graves range in date from the Paracas to the Inca and Colonial periods, 200 BC to the late eighteenth century AD.

Pre-Hispanic textiles are notable for a range of complex weaving techniques as well as non-woven techniques including embroidery, plaiting and sprang and for their striking designs which can be figurative or highly abstract. Made mainly from cotton and camelid fibres (the hair of llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco) many of the textiles display an impressive range of vibrant colours produced by the use of natural dyes and pigments.

Work to upgrade documentation and improve storage of the collections has progressed over the past five years. Each textile now has a record with image and can be accessed through the collection online

The collections have been re-housed in drawer units and reorganised so they are stored in chronological order. A current project to make storage mounts for each piece will further improve the storage, making study and handling easier.

Border from an embroidered mantle, 200 BC – AD 600, Paracas
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    Border from an embroidered mantle, 200 BC – AD 600, Paracas

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    Textile fragment, AD 1000 - 1476, probably from Chimu

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    Tapestry tunic fragment, AD 600 – 1000, Wari