Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Hidden Stories/Human Lives: Proceedings of the Textile Society of America 17th Biennial Symposium, October 15-17, 2020. https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/tsaconf/

doi: 10.32873/unl.dc.tsasp.0079


Copyright © 2020 Penelope Dransart


This article explores the significance of natural fleece colors that are often hidden by dyeing processes. The earliest domesticated alpacas and llamas probably resembled vicuñas and guanacos, their wild counterparts. By 3000 years ago, differences were beginning to emerge in the coats of alpacas and llamas. Dyers, spinners, and weavers learned to exploit these variations to complement and extend the range of possibilities offered through the use of dyed yarns. The evidence from the Siguas and Nasca cultural traditions considered here is both direct and indirect, taking into account textile remains and the depiction of camelids on ceramics. It indicates that all white camelids had emerged before c. AD 500. With Tiwanaku and Wari cultural expansion in the South-Central Andes and Central Andes, requirements for certain fleece types resulted in the production of greater quantities of white and black fleece. Tiwanaku tapestries typically have a dark ground against which reds, blues and blues resonate, with white and yellows providing accents. While some Wari textiles share this use of a dark ground, a considerable number of tapestries and tie-dyed textiles depended on the availability of white and beige to enable pinks, yellows, and other bright hues to shine. Flamingo pink, like millennial pink, became a Wari cultural signifier. To understand this phenomenon, the properties of fleece, including its undyed affordances, must be taken into account as well as the dyestuffs used to enhance the color range.