Spondylus (Spondylus princeps) was a sacred shell among the ancient Andean peoples. The mollusk is found in both Central and South America and was valued in Mesoamerica by cultures like the Maya who wore them as jewelry and employed them in ceremonies.
The mollusk thrives in the warmer waters off the coast of Ecuador. Residing in waters as deep as 50-60 metres, part of Spondylus' value to ancient Peruvians may have been due to the difficulties involved in harvesting them. The mollusks were retrieved by experienced divers, attached by life-lines to sea-faring balsa rafts, some of which were under sail. The red color and the watery habitat may have conveyed fertility concepts in rituals, through the association with blood and the annual rains.
- Above information taken from: http://www.museumfortextiles.on.ca