Cloaks are among the most common garment in human clothing history; cultures across time and the globe have used cloaks to keep warm. Blanket-like cloaks were worn by both men and women of the Mayan, Aztec, and Inca empires. Each empire used a different name for their cloaks, and often cloaks worn by men had different names than those worn by women.

Mayan men wore cloaks called pati, which were cloths tied around the shoulders. The pati of poor Mayans were plain cotton cloaks, but the highest-ranking Mayan men draped elegant pati of jaguar skin or feathers from a quetzal (a bird with brilliant blue-green feathers that reach three feet in length) around their shoulders. The cloaks of Aztecs, for which no specific name is known, were designed differently for people of different rank as well. The poorest people wore cloaks woven from the fiber of maguey, a spiny-leaved plant. Their cloaks reached no further than their knees. The wealthiest people wore extravagantly decorated cotton cloaks that swept the ground. Cloaks were such a symbol of wealth among the Aztecs that people sometimes wore more than one cloak at a time if they could afford it. However, each year Aztec emperors did grant poor people gifts of cloaks that had been given to the emperors from conquered peoples.

Inca men called their cloaks yacolla. Worn while dancing or working, yacolla were tied over the left shoulder to secure them if needed. Inca women fastened their cloaks, called lliclla, with pins in front of their chests. The poorest Incas wore simple cloaks, but the wealthiest wore cloaks made of specially woven fabric called cumbi cloth, which had designs indicating a person's rank woven into the fabric.


Aztecs: Reign of Blood and Splendor. Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1992.

Bray, Warwick. Everyday Life of the Aztecs. New York: Putnam, 1968.

Cobo, Bernabé. Inca Religion and Customs. Translated and edited by Roland Hamilton. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990.

Day, Nancy. Your Travel Guide to Ancient Mayan Civilization. Minneapolis, MN: Runestone Press, 2001.

Wood, Tim. The Aztecs. New York: Viking, 1992.

[ See also Volume 1, Ancient Greece: Chlaina and Diplax ; Volume 1, Ancient Rome: Casula ; Volume 2, Europe in the Middle Ages: Mantle ; Volume 2, Native American Cultures: Cloaks ]

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