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The history of alpacas

The "Gold of the Andes"

There is evidence that alpacas were domesticated as many as 6000 years ago and are associated with the goddess "Pachmana", the Earth Mother in Andean mythology. It was believed that alpacas were loaned to humans, to be left on earth for only as long as they were properly cared for and respected. According to this legend, alpacas were given as a gift at the mountain Ausangate in Peru.

When the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Peru, they found a civilization that was based on textiles. The Inca people lived in a society that was literally ‘woven together” by the fibres supplied by alpacas, llamas and cotton. Inca weavers made everything including bridges and roofs from fibres and they even recorded their wealth in patterns of knots.

Among the Andean people, cloth was currency and the fleece of the alpaca was one of the most prized. The loyalty of nobles was rewarded with garments made of alpaca. They also gave away huge amounts of alpaca textiles to assuage the guilt of defeated lords.

In this society, cloth making was a major enterprise of the State. In fact, the warehouses filled with alpaca textiles were considered so precious that Inca armies deliberately burned them when retreating from battle.

Blinded by the abundant gold, silver and precious stones, the Spanish did not recognise the true treasure of these people. In an effort to conquer and subjugate the natives, they ensued a wholesale slaughter of alpacas. By some accounts, as much as 90% of the alpacas in South America were slaughtered and left to rot in the fields. The carefully tended alpaca herds, divided by colour and quality, were killed or dispersed. Only a small number of these wonderful animals were saved by the native population when they were secretly led to the barren and remote altiplano.

Present day

Today, the world of high fashion cherishes alpaca not only for its scarcity, but also for its natural attributes; its fineness, durability, hypoallergenic and thermal qualities.

Plum of London specialises in the design and production of textiles and clothing utilising the natural and sustainable characteristics of one of the rarest and most luxurious fibres of them all - alpaca. View our ladies, men's, children's, babies and homeware alpaca ranges.

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