Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textiles as Cultural Expressions: Proceedings of the 11th Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, September 24–27, 2008, Honolulu, Hawaii


Copyright 2008 by the author.



The identification of dyes and pigments is nowadays very precise by means of different systems of chromatographic analysis. Nevertheless, as the same dye component 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.

In the case of South American textiles, the major source of bibliographical information about the subject can be found in the Spanish Chronicles from the Americas, produced during the XVI–XVII centuries. Although European textile technology was introduced in the New World soon after the arrival of the Spaniards, it can be easily accepted that the descriptions about indigenous dyeing procedures gathered in the chronicles generally refer to genuinely autochthonous practices. When the botanists of the Spanish scientific expeditions to South America in the XVIII century, later reported about the plants used by local dyers of Peru and Colombia, those happened to be the same as the ones mentioned in the previous centuries. Furthermore, ethno-botanical data gathered by Francis MacBride in his Flora of Peru, during the first half of the twentieth century, again coincide with preceding information. Finally, ethnographic field research conducted by the author between 1986-1992 with dyers of Indian Communities of Ecuador and Peru for the study and register of dyeing techniques and common names of the plants, gave similar results.