Weaving textiles was seen as an important artistic achievement of the ancient cultures of South America. There are various types of textiles, more and less complex. For a better understanding of Argentine textiles, we divided it in two main groups: Northern and Southern textiles. Even though in the same country, textiles differ in technique, patterns and colors.
NORTHERN TEXTILES - ANDEAN SOCIETY
Andean people first produced textiles around 10,000 BC, creating one of the world’s earliest weaving traditions. These textiles were made to be used as clothing, as tools and shelter for the house, as well as a symbol of status. Textiles also played an important role in religious and political rituals. For example, when high-status individuals died, they were wrapped in layers of fabrics and buried with cloth offerings.
Andean textiles reflect the fabric of life—a unique heritage of woven stories and cultural traditions inspired by the windswept steppes and snow- capped peaks of the Andes. In the ancient Andean world, textiles served as a primary form of artistic expression as well as a powerful visual medium for portraying nature’s secrets and the order of the universe. Andean textiles are known worldwide for their exquisite quality, intricate designs, and rich color palette. In Argentina, the first hand-spun cordage—a mixture of plant fibers, wool, and human hair— dates to nearly 7670 BC and was found in a cave in Jujuy Province. People got the wool like fiber from the Camelid Family. In South America, this species evolves into the guanaco - progenitor of the llama -, and the vicuna - progenitor of the alpaca.
SOUTHERN TEXTILES - MAPUCHE SOCIETY
The South of Argentina is known as the heartland of the indigenous Mapuche people (mapu = earth, che= people). The Mapuche remote origins come from the large Mongolian ethnic group, which arrived to America 1,000 BC. Mapuche is one of the many American native groups that have retained more strongly their beliefs, customs and identity.
One of the best-known arts of the Mapuche is their textile. Prior to the 20th Century, Mapuche textiles and ponchos, in particular, were important trade items. Fabrics were made by women who transmitted their knowledge from generation to generation, orally and through imitation of gestures, usually within the family environment. Thought the development of weaves, women played an important economic and cultural role.
Mapuche people developed their own weaving style, exemplified by double-faced textiles with complicated geometric designs. History says that at the time of European arrival in the region of Araucaria, Chile, local natives wore textiles made of camelid hair (llama and alpacas), made by them from the raw material obtained by breeding these animals.
Later on the Europeans introduced the sheep, aborigines began breed these animals and used their wool for their weaving. It gradually replaced camelid hair as sheep were bred with more robust bodies and thicker wool, than those imported by the Europeans. These new breeds suited better to local conditions.