Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Tzut (Head Cloth) with “Recuerdo de Albina Semet" Jaspé (Tie-Dyed Threads)

2009_042_196_D_SCR (1).jpg


Tzut (Head Cloth) with “Recuerdo de Albina Semet" Jaspé (Tie-Dyed Threads)


As weavers learn from their elders, practice, and become highly skilled, some of the most proficient are able to tie-dye threads so that they spell words, people’s or place’s names, and sometimes even phrases. These are perhaps the most prestigious of all jaspé cloths.

Writing using letters marks a profound change in the Maya tradition, since the ancient indigenous people wrote hieroglyphs for thousands of years. The alphabet was introduced by the European cultures that overran the Americas beginning with Columbus. Such writing, in spite of or perhaps because of being foreign, was held in high regard during colonial times and retains an “exotic” caché still today in Guatemala.

The piece at left reads, “Recuerdo de Albina Semet” (“In memory of Albina Semet”). This name combines a Spanish first name, Albina, with a Maya surname, Semet. Albina suggests that she was K’iche’, a Maya subgroups. Like the weaving which spells the mixed-culture name Mateo Yax, this piece (along with another example of a name woven in jaspé) demonstrates how the modern Maya are both related to the deep past and the more recent one.

Geographic Area

Central America, Guatemala, San Bernardino


K’iche’ Maya


Ca. 1930



Credit Line

Bright Collection of Guatemalan Textiles

Accession Number


Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey, 2017

Exhibition Checklist