Textiles and the Triplett Sisters

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Peru: Indigo

The story of indigo has a long history, parts which aren’t always acknowledged. India and Japan have long been acknowledged for their contributions to cultivation and use of indigo. Kay and I tried to shed light on the African contribution to the story of indigo in our book Indigo Quilts from the Poos Collection. If you aren’t familiar with this book, here is a link to learn more.

Now it is time to add Peru to the story or perhaps it would be more accurate to say “add it back into” the story of indigo. Archaeologists at the Huaca Prieta ceremonial mound site have uncovered scraps of indigo dyed fabric. These multiple scraps of fabric are believed to be about 6,200 years old and place a new date on indigo used on still intact fabric. Prior to this discovery the oldest known indigo dyed textile was Egyptian approximately 2400 BC. (Note that both locations have weather conditions conducive to preserving textiles.)

While we were researching indigo use for our book, there were some unusual signs that pointed to South American connection to indigo. Check out these dye labels for a German synthetic dye company from circa 1900 which appear to link indigo to South America. These images can’t be associated with Japan, India, or Africa.  So as early as 1900 there was an implication of indigo from the South Americas to help sell a synthetic version of indigo. Obviously there is more to this story to be revealed…to be continued.