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ancient threads

July 5, 2011

from the Western Andes  of Peru, Las Munecas Antiquas or mummy dolls are modern dolls created from pre-Columbian textile fragments recovered from plundered cemeteries. Of course the robbing of gravesites is illegal but the modern dolls continue to be made. The uninformed tourist can find themselves in trouble with authorities if found in possession of antiquities.

she was in the window of a second-hand store. I dithered about buying her but decided that I would keep her safe and understand the history.

modern dolls generally have stitched or embroidered facial features whereas genuine antiquities have faces that were woven with tapestry techniques.

see her baby peeking out from behind?

she seems to be stuffed with plant leaves and her braids are wrapped over some kind of plant stem. All the yarns are handspun, mostly singles cotton. The face has a widely spaced woolen warp  stitched over fine cotton fabric and a 2 ply woolen weft woven into it with the features stitched over that. I would guess the woolen fibre is llama, rather course and hairy. All natural coloured fibre or natural dyes are used. Could the red be cochineal?? 


many of the dolls are mother and child, most have a woven headband and the majority wear an apron.







the back shows the net- like woven head covering which is also used to wrap the baby. The dark yarn, hair??  is hand spun 2 ply alpaca (I think) very soft and lustrous.

these textiles have survived because the Atacama Desert, where they are found, is the driest desert in the world. 


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Lauren permalink
    July 5, 2011 2:32 pm

    wow great find Jean, thanks for sharing the history with us. the things people donate away… my goodness.


  2. July 5, 2011 2:50 pm

    jean, this is a hard choice, to buy to understand, to keep her safe. i think this is a big obligation and some would see it as buying into the acquisitiveness. but i like better that you understand, you teach, and you preserve what is left.


  3. July 5, 2011 10:12 pm

    I think she found her way into the right hands.


  4. July 6, 2011 4:33 pm

    Hi Jean, thanks so much for visiting my blog and read my Japan journal on Arimatsu shibori festival. I have been to your blog before, but now I have added it to my reading list so I won’t loose it again. Thanks for the recommendation of “Arimatsu – Narumi SHIBORI” DVD. I was told of it by Yoshiko, but I haven’t got a chance to get it yet. It was great to meet Yoshiko in person. I have one of her book. She was lovely! I see you have many interests similar to mine. I hope to come back and read more about it – Hugs Nat


  5. July 6, 2011 10:20 pm

    How interesting, and how moving too thinking that this doll was found by someone who truly appreciates and understands her story.


  6. Felipe permalink
    January 8, 2017 9:35 am

    Hi, I would like to have more information about this dolls. I bought one in Bolivia and I really dont know what to do with it. I dont appreciate it anymore.


    • January 8, 2017 10:36 am

      Felipe – the blog gives all the information I personally know, you can find more information on the internet. You don’t say where you live but you could also take your “doll” to a museum to see if they can tell you more and if she is genuine or a modern copy. In many countries it is illegal to deal in antiquities, I bought mine because I am a weaver and knew about the textile history. She was in a small secondhand store in Canada and the owner thought she was a child’s toy, she well may have been discarded so I gave her a new home.


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