Threads of Time: Tradition and Change in Indigenous American Textiles

Weaver's Work Basket and Contents



Weaver's Work Basket and Contents


Due to the dry climate of the ancient Andes, thousands upon thousands of textiles were preserved from antiquity, as well as weaving and spinning tools and balls of yarn, often accompanying the deceased. Both elaborating these tools and then burying them shows the value placed on the textile-producing process from start to finish and even projected into the afterlife. Around 1000 AD this woman’s workbasket was interred with its owner, one of hundreds that have been found. It was woven from reeds and contained balls of yarn, spindles, a tiny bowl, and battens. The fine thread in the balls was made using the tiny bowl, necessary to support the wooden spindle so the weight of the tool would not break the thread. The blue cotton thread was dyed with the unpredictable, difficult, and therefore prestigious indigo plant. Indigo does not adhere well to cotton, making this feat more remarkable. 

Geographic Area

South America, Central Andes, Chancay Valley




Late Intermediate Period, ca. 1000-1470 AD


Reed, wood, cotton, ceramic

Credit Line

Ex coll. C. Clay and Virginia Aldridge

Accession Number

2002.1.126A (Basket), F (Ball of Green Thread), G (Ball of Blue Thread), H (Bowl), P (Ball of Brown Thread)

Photo Credit

Photo by Michael McKelvey

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