chapter  1
14 Pages

Threads through time

This book explores the relationships maintained between human beings and their herd animals through that most fundamental of human activities, the spinning of yarn from fleece. The animals considered are the South American camelids, a group that includes the vicuña, the guanaco, the llama and the alpaca, and the place is the South-Central Andes: more precisely, the highland and desert areas that are now incorporated into Chilean national territory (figure 1.1). A longterm ethnography is evoked here that focuses on the herding of llamas and the spinning of yarn from over three thousand years ago to the present. My purpose is to demonstrate how an analysis of the making of yarn and fabric responds to the productive relations of a herding society. Yarn making is the product of a particular set of social networks that characterize the societies considered here.