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Territorial value

Textiles reflect their territorial origins in particular places and regions, through their design, their symbolism, the process of their production and their use of natural materials.

The relative proportions of figurative and plain cloth in the textiles analyzed in the project—mainly from the south-central Andes, and dating from the Middle Horizon (600–1000 CE) to the present—reveal historical allegiances to the woven repertoires of wider political federations or alliances. They also indicate whether textiles were woven in the highlands or valleys, and by older or younger generations.

Textile stripes often represent the flow of rivers, stoned walls, or boundary markers. Cloth colours indicate regional and historical identities, age and family groupings, and regional political identities. In addition, they denote the technological range of dyeing processes based on natural resources obtainable from plants, insects, and minerals, as well as the time of year when these were collected. Detailed knowledge of local resources provided the inspiration for meticulous renderings of flora, fauna, and celestial bodies, a mapping of the land that could also reflect seasonal variations.

The different combinations of width and colour in both woven cloth and khipu [knotted threads] document the quantity and content of the items represented; they may also indicate wider exchange patterns between the highlands and lowlands. The correlation between coloured stripes and ecological zones suggest that the use of 'raw' (natural) and 'cooked' (dyed) colours have distinct purposes.