Studying the collection: weavers' work baskets

Detail from an Andean textile

Example of a weaver’s work basket from the British Museum collection

In addition to textiles, a number of Andean weavers’ workbaskets have been preserved and detailed study of the contents of these baskets offers the possibility to investigate the range of materials, colours and tools used in the production of the textiles.

A survey of the Andean workbaskets known in museum collections (mainly from the Chancay culture) has been undertaken and it has been possible to examine in detail the contents of about 10% of these. Although the contents of the baskets may have been disturbed or may not be directly representative of daily practice, their study helps provide context for the associated textiles and improve understanding of textile production. This formed the initial focus of this project and the study was undertaken in collaboration with the Institute of Archaeology, University College London.

Dyed material on different support (raw materials, yarns, and textiles) from three of the British Museum’s workbaskets has been selected for analytical study to provide further information about the techniques of dyeing and weaving.

The workbaskets allow slightly larger samples to be studied than can be obtained from textiles and contamination from the environment or conservation interventions is likely to be minimised and thus these samples are deliberately being studied prior to textile samples to ensure that the analytical approach is suitable for the very challenging archaeological textile samples.