Textile Technologies of Prehispanic Mesoamerica and the Andes

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

The social, political, and economic role of cloth in Mesoamerica and the Andes has been well documented in ethnographic and ethnohistoric literature. While archaeologists working in these regions are aware of the significance cloth had within the communities they study, textile production receives relatively little attention compared to other technologies documented in the archaeological record. Researchers from the Andes are fortunate to have a large sample of prehispanic textiles to work from, whereas textiles in much of Mesoamerica leave little material trace, except for the artifacts used for creating them. Spindle whorls are especially well documented, but other weaving implements are occasionally found in elite funerary contexts.

This session examines these technologies, with an emphasis on the textiles themselves from the Andean region and on spindle whorls and other weaving implements recovered from Mesoamerican contexts. When Andean textiles are studied, they are often examined through an art historical lens, with researchers focusing on patterns in overall structure and design. Our focus lies instead in documenting the technical attributes of textiles and the materials used to create them in order to develop a better understanding of the communities that produced them.

Geographic Keywords
South AmericaMesoamerica

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-7 of 7)

  • Documents (7)

  • 3D Digitization of Spindle Whorls from Pre-Contact Central Mexico (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Holly Neville. Tiffany Birakis.

    Three-dimensional digitization technology is opening up a new world of opportunities for the analysis and manipulation of artifacts without the risk of extraneous handling of the original, which could compromise preservation. This poster examines the practice of digital scanning on a collection of Mesoamerican spindle whorls at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Florida, discussing the hardware and software used for digitization, as well as the process of creating accurate three-dimensional...

  • Beyond the Utilitarian: Spindle Whorls from Burials and Caches in the Maya Area (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Mallory Fenn. Gabrielle Vail. Gail Fish. Vail.

    Technologies for spinning fibers into thread by hand have changed little in Mesoamerica since they were first introduced. Made primarily of perishable materials, however, the wooden spindle and the fibers themselves are generally no longer present in the archaeological record. What does survive, however, are spindle whorls – spherical artifacts used to weigh down the spindle to keep it anchored during the process of spinning. In the Maya area, these artifacts are rarely found in primary...

  • The Development of Andean Textile Dying Technology (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Hans Barnard. Ran Boytner.

    Textiles have always had great social significance in the Andes. They were used to expressed identity and power as well as position and function within society. Intensive investment in textile technologies yielded some of the best such artifacts of the ancient world. While spinning and weaving produced fine garments, it was colors—achieved primarily through the use of brilliant organic dyes—that constituted the major visual qualities of Andean textiles. A limited number of studies exist that...

  • Gender, Class and Textile Production: An Analysis of Casma Spindle Whorls from El Purgatorio, Peru (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kristin Buhrow. Melissa Vogel.

    Spindle whorls have historically been subjected to less archaeological attention than other artifact classes. This dearth of analysis may reflect an underestimation of the insights to be gained from spindle whorls, in terms of archaeological interpretations of gender, status, and exchange patterns, which may be much greater than previously acknowledged. The case study presented here examines a sample of spindle whorls from the Casma capital city of El Purgatorio, Peru. We examine their...

  • Sicán Painted Textiles: Producer's and Multi-Craft Perspectives (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Amy Szumilewicz.

    Two types of painted textiles exist within controlled funerary contexts from the Middle Sicán culture (900-1100 CE) on the North coast of Peru. The first represents the genre of painted cloth in a traditional sense: woven textiles with decorative elements added to the final product. The other is a more complex, multi-crafted and multi-stepped object that combines the labor intensive production of sheet-metal, cotton textile, gesso-like clay, and the final application of painted designs. These...

  • A Technical Attribute Analysis of Textile Band Production at Uraca, Peru (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Samantha Seyler. Beth Koontz Scaffidi.

    As with other forms of technology, normative patterns in textile production can suggest information about the communities of weavers that produced them. Through an analysis of technical attributes, this poster establishes the normative patterns involved in the production of textile bands at the mortuary site of Uraca in the Majes Valley of Peru and suggests how these patterns relate Uraca to broader textile traditions within the region. More specifically, it examines how Uraca relates to the...

  • Weaving Technologies and Textile Production: A Case Study from the Northern Maya Lowlands (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Carrie Todd. Gabrielle Vail.

    Ethnohistoric sources point to the importance of textile production in the northern Maya lowlands in the years immediately preceding and following the Spanish conquest. Archaeological evidence of textiles and their creation comes from a variety of sources, including fragments of cloth recovered from the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá; spindle whorls found in domestic and ceremonial contexts at Chichén Itzá, the nearby cave site of Balankanche’, and other archaeological sites in the vicinity; and...