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December 8, 2020

People of the Loom

My article “Weaving for Their Ancestors” is in the November-December 2020 issue of Archaeology. It’s based on reporting I did in 2019 at about a dozen sites dating from the first millennium BC on the south coast of Peru. Archaeologists there are finding an incredible array of tools and supplies for making really high-quality, complex textiles. Who was making so many textiles? It was probably the ancient people who wove the gorgeous weavings that wrapped the dead in tombs on the arid, almost uninhabited Paracas peninsula. Julio C. Tello, the granddaddy of Peruvian archaeology, excavated the Paracas cloths in the 1920s, was astonished at their beauty, but wrote that he had no idea where the weavers lived. Now we know.

The pits where the archaeologists worked are really, really deep — 20 feet down, sometimes. So deep you need a ladder to get to the bottom of them. That’s because tons of soil have been washing down from the Andes for centuries. To dig those pits took some muscle.

Unfortunately it’s not on the magazine’s website, not even paywalled, but I’ll try to get the text of it posted somehow.