Archaeologists Find Ancient Textiles Throughout the Americas

Textile Artistic Expression
18th April 2019

Textile art design in the Americas dates back to native inhabitants who made ceremonial and decorative works, using animal fibers, plants, and other materials. Some of the earliest pieces date back to around 10,000 B.C.E. Here are two cultural areas where archaeologists found precious, ancient textiles.

Mesoamerica

The Mayan textile tradition incorporated its oral history into elaborately designed cotton that served as a source of income for the women and a popular art form. Mayan textiles were an important part of religion. Prestige associated with ownership separated the elite from the commoners.

Northwest Coast

The Salish peoples made beautiful blankets. A Chilkat blanket can take more than a year to weave. The technique is one of the most difficult to master. Weavers blend cedar bark with wool from sheep, goats, or dogs to make textiles with formline art, a unique Indian pattern that incorporates s and u forms as the basic design element.

An early industry in the Americas, textile art served practical purposes from clothing to blankets. The intricate detail and elaborate designs ensured valuable trades. Some modern artists copy ancient techniques, blending modern designs with cultural decorations.