Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Presented at Textile Society of America 11th Biennial Symposium: Textiles as Cultural Expressions, September 4-7, 2008, Honolulu, Hawai'i. Copyright © 2008 Ana Roquero


Identification of dyes and pigments is presently very precise by means of different systems of chromatographic analysis. Nevertheless, as the same dye components can be found in different plants and animals, it is important when studying dyes in textiles to consider the geographical and cultural context of both the textile and the possible dyestuffs used historically in the area. The presentation shall focus on a single colour: red. Various shades of red are profusely used in textiles from South America. Many of these are obtained mainly from cochineal. However, when analysing the colouring substances of an Andean textile, it is worth considering other sources of red dye such as chapi-chapi (Relbunium hypocarpium), ccallo-huacta (Galium corymbosum), chile-chile (Geranium filipes), rumi-unku (Parmelia sp. / Xanthoria sp.), inti-sunkha (Ramalina sp. / Siphula sp.), lambrán (Alnus jorullensis), etc. that have been reported in the area.

Research conducted for this paper follows my recent publication Tintes y Tintoreros de América “Dyes and Dyers from America” (Madrid 2006), which provides a useful tool for the identification of dye sources in archaeological textiles belonging to Middle American and Andean cultures. The book includes a catalogue of more than two hundred botanical and zoological species, traditionally used as dyestuffs and auxiliary products, and an ethnographical register of dye procedures still maintained by native dyers in the Americas up to the end of the twentieth century.