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Inca Clothing

The Inca clothing had few simple shapes but with high importance for the Incas Society. The clothing during the Inca Empire defines from where you are, what social status you have and what you do for living. The Incas make clothing from cotton and llama wool; for special clothing it was use wool of Viscachas (rodents of the chinchilla family), alpacas and human hair.

All clothing production was the responsibility of the Inca Government. The Incas create houses call Acllahuasis, where the Tanticamayoc was the responsible of dyeing the wool with natural dyes. The natural dyes come from plants, animals, insects and minerals. Then the Cumbicamayoc, who was the responsible of the Inca clothing production, organize a group of women call Mamacunas or Acllas. They did not make any textile randomly; they have to consider quality of material, quality of textile and more important, who will wear it.
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    • inca clothing
      Typical outfit of the Inca people; today it's still in use in the Peruvian highlands.
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    • inca waist loom
      This image explains you with detail the design of the Inca waist loom.
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    • acllas
      The Acllas were making textiles their entire life, no wonder they were capable to create such beautifully work.

The Mamacunas were the core of the Inca clothing production during the Incas rule. The Incas select these young women from all status of the Incas society. They may choose them because their beauty, intelligence or any other reason that makes them special. Next, they were force to go the Acllahuasis or house of the chosen; the young women stay there doing textiles, cooking and preparing alcoholics drinks for life. When the girls grow into women, they offer them as wife to Inca generals and in rare occasions they were use as sacrifice for the Inca God Wiracocha.

The Inca waist loom was the tool the Incas use to make all their Inca clothing; it was hanging from the wall and stretch with the waist. The Incas had three types of textiles: First the Cosi, it was simple, with no special decoration, mainly use for blankets. Second, the Auasca, it was the common textile to produce clothing for daily use; it doesn't contain colors, styles or images proper from the person that will use it.

The final style textile was the Cumbi; this textile was use specifically to create Inca clothing for authorities, royal family, priests and for the Inca king. The Unku, was the basic standard shape of clothing for man and women. It was a rectangular shape robe, with a top center hole for the head. Two holes left and right for the arms, no sleeves, until the knees. They make it with two pieces of textiles sew on the sides

The special Inca clothing made with the Cumbi textiles were call Tocapus. Each Tocapu contains complex ideograms, with geometrical images, inside square areas, similar to a chessboard. Such images explain the genealogy, religion preferences and social status of the person. Some Tocapus contain more that 200 fibers per square inch. Now, if you compare with the average 85 fibers per square inch in Europe and Asia; confirm the Inca Tocapu as a unique and perfect textile.
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    • tocapu inca clothing
      The Tocapu was the masterpiece textile art of the Incas.
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    • inca mummies
      The most priceless Tocapus were use to dress the death bodies of important authorities.
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    • tocapu
      The archaeologists believe the Tocapus hide a symbolic language that it's lost in history.

The Inca clothing had a religious, social and military importance. For example: a priest may use Tocapus as sacrifice for gods. Tocapus were the most valuable item for the Incas society. The nicest gift that you can give during the Inca empire was clothing. When the kids became youngsters, they give them special clothing that represents their status in the community. Ones a new culture was add to the empire, the Inca king show up among that community using the clothing from that culture, showing respect for them.

The meaning of the Inca clothing goes beyond our understating. Because Peruvian investigators believe the Tocapus images were a style of writing with Inca Symbols; but there's no proved of it. The textiles were so important for the Inca society; that in case of invasion, it was critical to burn their Tocapus. It was because the Incas believe that if your enemy has your clothing, he can kill you using magical spells.

We can compare the Inca clothing with an advance version of our passports. It's because they could know; who is the person, from where he came from, what's his job and social status, just with one look. The Inca textiles were an item of social meaning, power, and membership of the community. The Incas master the textile production techniques, by collecting knowledge of many cultures during centuries, giving us such beautiful textile legacy.
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