Ancient Peruvians honored their gods with offerings and ceremonies and paid homage to their dead. The works of art that we see in museums were not usually objects intended for daily use. Although some of their apparently utilitarian forms may suggest such usages, their real function was to serve as spiritual rather than earthly objects.
The value attributed to textiles by pre-Columbian societies can be compared to the importance given to gold and silver. Textiles served as much more than clothing; they were also a medium for the spreading of religious ideas and for transmitting messages to the next world when they were employed to wrap the mortal remains of the dead. They also served as exquisite gifts for the rulers of these societies, as well as to denote social status.
In today’s world, many international clothing brands include on their labels information regarding the primary material from which the items were made: “Peruvian cotton”. In Peru, we are proud of the quality of this product and the fact that this quality is recognized throughout the world.
In the Andean region, cotton was domesticated some 4,500 years ago and it quickly became one of the most important materials used in the processes of spinning and weaving and the production of fishing nets, bags, funerary mantles and fine clothing.
In addition to cotton, alpaca and vicuña wool was also woven. The wool from these animals is among the finest in the world and it protects the wearer against the cold as well as being highly impermeable. Today the clothing made from these materials is also greatly appreciated in the rest of the world.
In ancient Peru the women usually spun and wove. They were experts in the techniques of spinning, dying, weaving and embroidering.
Textiles are capable of containing a great deal of information, not only in their designs, but also in their actual structure.
The textiles of southern Peru are the most well-known, for they were preserved by the dry desert environment of the southern coast. The textiles of northern Peru were also of the highest quality, but they were unable to survive the humidity caused by the torrential rains associated with the recurrent El Niño phenomenon which affects that region.