A view from the weaver’s fingertips: gesture and complexity in the South Central Andes

Author(s): Denise Arnold

Year: 2016


This paper traces the gradual acquisition of increasingly complex mental and haptic operations as a girl learns to weave in the Andes. She starts early with fingertip ‘synaesthetic’ knowledge of fleece thickness and quality as she prepares raw materials and spins them, and the mental-visual knowledge of counting herd animals in her pasturing duties. She passes on to the visual recognition of selection and counting patterns in simple crossed-warp weaves, in belt straps, and then to the integration of digital, manual, visceral and bodily rhythms in more complex warp-faced weaves, first in small bags, then finally in late adolescence and adulthood in the manta and poncho. I follow the detailed systematization of these learning processes and gestures carried out with weavers before documenting these in film. This shows how increasing complexity articulates simultaneously across gestures, haptic coordinations and rhythms, operational sequences (sensu Leroi-Gourhan) involving the technological and technical artefacts (looms and instruments) with which the weaver engages, the garments she makes, and the structures, techniques and designs of the warp-faced weaves she applies. The paper locates these processes in three major ‘ways’ (thakhi) of learning recognised in Andean communal education, and their implications in archaeological work on textiles.

Cite this Record

A view from the weaver’s fingertips: gesture and complexity in the South Central Andes. Denise Arnold. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403200)


Geographic Keywords
South America

Spatial Coverage

min long: -93.691; min lat: -56.945 ; max long: -31.113; max lat: 18.48 ;