The people living in the western regions of South American Andes were masters of handicraft and famous for their textiles. Alpaca wool has been an important clothing material for thousands of years and as a result the area has produced many masterpieces of textile art. Scientists believe that these ancient nations knew almost all currently available weaving techniques and mastered the use of color.
Alpaca, vicuna and llama wool together with cotton were used as well as a mixtures of the aforementioned. Fabrics were decorated with elaborate embroidery and with a kind of knitting. Materials were dyed with beautiful colors obtained from plants, insects and sea. Also soil colors were used. In addition to clothing, fabrics and garments also served as an important commodity. The most fine-looking fabrics and woven textiles were designated to nobility to be used in burials or as gifts to the gods.
For the ancient Incas alpacas were important domestic animals, but the wool was reserved for nobility only. It is estimated that during the arrival of Spaniards there have been tens of millions of alpacas grazing the grassy pastures.
The most well-preserved ancient textiles were discovered from tombs in Paracas area, near the famous Nazca lines. These tombs contained more than 400 mummies dating back to 1000-200 BC and all wrapped in alpaca wool shrouds. These burial textiles had
been skillfully prepared and displayed more than 150 colors, all remarkably well conserved. Painted cotton fabrics created by Chavin culture from 2000-500 BC are the oldest discoveries of ancestors in South America, although scientist claim to have found artifacts as old as 5000 years.