The Legend of Alpaca

The legend of alpaca begins in the mists of South American prehistory some 6000 years ago.

Alpacas were associated with the goddess "Pachmana" (the Earth Mother) in Andean mythology. It was believed that alpacas were given to man as a gift at the mountain Ausangate in Peru and to be left on earth for only as long as they were properly looked after.'Alpaca Sheep', c1880. A print from "Great Industries of Great Britain", Volume I, published by Cassell Petter and Galpin, (London, Paris, New York, c1880)

When the Spanish Conquistadores arrived in Peru they discovered a civilization that was based on textiles. The Inca lived in a society that was literally “woven together” by the fibre of alpaca, llama and cotton. Inca weavers made everything from bridges to roofs from fibre and they recorded their wealth in patterns of knots. They Amerindians of Peru used alpaca fibre to make a variety of fabrics for thousands of years.

Among the Andean people cloth was currency and the fleece of the alpaca was valued. Herds of alpaca were carefully divided by colour and quality. In this society cloth making was a major enterprise of the State. The loyalty of nobles was rewarded with cloth made of alpaca. Alpaca textiles were given to assuage the guilt of defeated lords. Their armies were paid with alpaca textiles. Warehouses containing alpaca textiles were considered so precious that Incan armies deliberately burned them when retreating from battle.

In the effort to conquer the Incas the Spanish Conquistadores slaughtered the alpaca. The Incas that escaped took with them a small remnant of their herds and fled to the barren and remote altiplano. The Spanish introduced then their merino sheep.

The Alpacas faded into mists of South America and the golden fleece of the alpaca became a legend.