Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Three-Panel Textile Fragment



Three-Panel Textile Fragment


Indigenous Amerindian clothing has almost always been woven to shape or constructed from complete parts united in the final garment without recourse to cutting the cloth. This ancient textile, which could have had many other pieces sewn alongside what remains today, exemplifies this idea of bringing together many parts to make a whole. The Inka concept is that of tinku, or two or more parts that unite to create an entirely new entity. Adding parts, a design scheme as well as a cultural ideal, governs the ways in which people come together and bring their many talents to build a strong group, tradition, or work of art.

Each part, here the juxtaposed dark brown side pieces versus the light tan center one, contributes its own unique voice. In this textile, the brocaded designs feature similar large zigzags. Yet, the way in which the border areas expressly do not line up draws attention to the additive creative process, which symbolizes coming together, the essence of tinku.


Geographic Area

South America, Central Andes




Late Intermediate Period, ca. 1000-1470 AD


Camelid fiber

Credit Line

Anonymous gift

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Bruce M. White, 2016

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