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Title: Prehistoric Textile Art of Eastern United States - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Beaurau of American - Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution - 1891-1892, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1896 - pages 3-46
Author: Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prehistoric Textile Art of Eastern United States - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Beaurau of American - Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution - 1891-1892, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1896 - pages 3-46" ***

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Introductory                                                   9
  Scope of the work                                            9
  Definition of the art                                       10
  Materials and processes                                     10
  Sources of information                                      11
Products of the art                                           13
  Wattle work                                                 13
  Basketry                                                    15
    Types of basketry                                         15
    Baskets                                                   15
    Sieves and strainers                                      17
    Cradles                                                   18
    Shields                                                   18
  Matting                                                     18
  Pliable fabrics                                             21
    Development of spinning and weaving                       21
    Cloths                                                    22
    Nets                                                      26
    Feather-work                                              27
    Embroidery                                                28
  Fossil fabrics                                              28
    Modes of preservation                                     28
    Fabrics from caves and shelters                           29
    Charred remains of fabrics from mounds                    35
    Fabrics preserved by contact with copper                  36
    Fabrics impressed on pottery                              37



PLATE I. Products of the textile art: _a_, Openwork
fish baskets of Virginia Indians; _b_, Manner of
weaving: _c_, Basket strainer; _d_, Quiver of rushes;
_e_, Mat of rushes                                            18

 II. Mat of split cane                                        28

III. Mantle or skirt of light-colored stuff                   30

  IV. Fringed skirt                                           32

   V. Frayed bag and skeins of hemp fiber                     34

  VI. Charred cloth from mounds in Ohio                       36

 VII. Drawings of charred fabric from mounds                  38

VIII. Copper celts with remnants of cloth                     40

  IX. Bits of fabric-marked pottery, with clay casts of same  44

FIG. 1. Fish weir of the Virginia Indians                     14

     2. Use of mats in an Indian council                      19

     3. Use of mat in sleeping                                20

     4. Section of cliff showing position of grave shelter    31

     5. Portion of mantle showing manner of weaving           32

     6. Analysis of the weaving of fringed skirt              32

     7. Former costumes of woman and girl in Louisiana        33

     8. Border of bag                                         34

     9. Sandal or moccasin from a Kentucky cave               35

    10. Fine, closely woven cloth preserved by contact with
        copper beads                                          36

    11. Small portion of rush matting preserved by contact
        with copper                                           37

    12. Split-cane matting from Petite Ause island,
        Louisiana                                             38

    13. Fabric-marked vase from a mound in North Carolina     39

    14. Diagonal fabric, ancient pottery of Tennessee         39

    15. Fabric from the ancient pottery of Alabama            40

    16. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee         40

    17. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee         40

    18. Twined fabric from ancient salt vessel, Illinois      41

    19. Twined fabric from ancient salt vessel, Illinois      41

    20. Twined fabric from a piece of clay, Arkansas          42

    21. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee         42

    22. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Missouri          42

    23. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Carter county,
        Tennessee                                             43

    24. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee         43

    25. Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee         43

    26. Twined fabric, with patterns, Ohio valley             44

    27. Net from ancient pottery, District of Columbia        44

    28. Net from ancient pottery, North Carolina              45





About the year 1890 the writer was requested by the Director of the
Bureau of Ethnology to prepare certain papers on aboriginal art, to
accompany the final report of Dr. Cyrus Thomas on his explorations of
mounds and other ancient remains in eastern United States. These papers
were to treat of those arts represented most fully by relics recovered
in the field explored. They included studies of the art of pottery, of
the textile art and of art in shell, and a paper on native tobacco
pipes. Three of these papers were already completed when it was decided
to issue the main work of Dr. Thomas independently of the several papers
prepared by his associates. It thus happens that the present paper,
written to form a limited section of a work restricted to narrow
geographic limits, covers so small a fragment of the aboriginal textile

The materials considered in this paper include little not germane to the
studies conducted by Dr. Thomas in the mound region, the collections
used having been made largely by members of the Bureau of Ethnology
acting under his supervision. Two or three papers have already been
published in the annual reports of the Bureau in which parts of the same
collections have been utilized, and a few of the illustrations prepared
for these papers are reproduced in this more comprehensive study.

Until within the last few years textile fabrics have hardly been
recognized as having a place among the materials to be utilized in the
discussion of North American archeology. Recent studies of the art of
the mound-building tribes have, however, served to demonstrate their
importance, and the evidence now furnished by this art can be placed
alongside of that of arts in clay, stone, and metal, as a factor in
determining the culture status of the prehistoric peoples and in
defining their relations to the historic Indians. This change is due to
the more careful investigations of recent times, to the utilization of
new lines of archeologic research, and to the better knowledge of the
character and scope of historic and modern native art. A comparison of
the textiles obtained from ancient mounds and graves with the work of
living tribes has demonstrated their practical identity in materials, in
processes of manufacture, and in articles produced. Thus another
important link is added to the chain that binds together the ancient and
the modern tribes.


The textile art dates back to the very inception of culture, and its
practice is next to universal among living peoples. In very early stages
of culture progress it embraced the stems of numerous branches of
industry afterward differentiated through the utilization of other
materials or through the employment of distinct systems of construction.
At all periods of cultural development it has been a most indispensable
art, and with some peoples it has reached a marvelous perfection, both
technically and esthetically.

Woven fabrics include all those products of art in which the elements or
parts employed in construction are more or less filamental, and are
combined by methods conditioned chiefly by their flexibility. The
processes employed are known by such terms as wattling, interlacing,
plaiting, netting, weaving, sewing, and embroidering.


Viewing the entire textile field, we find that the range of products is
extremely wide. On the one hand there is the rude interlacing of
branches, vines, roots, and canes in constructing houses, weirs, cages,
rafts, bridges, and the like, and on the other, the spinning of threads
of almost microscopic fineness and the weaving of textures of marvelous
delicacy and beauty.

The more cultured peoples of Central America and South America had
accomplished wonders in the use of the loom and the embroidery frame,
but the work of the natives of the United States was on a decidedly
lower plane. In basketry and certain classes of garment-making, the
inhabitants of the Mississippi valley were well advanced at the period
of European conquest, and there is ample evidence to show that the
mound-building peoples were not behind historic tribes in this matter.
In many sections of our country the art is still practiced, and with a
technical perfection and an artistic refinement of high order, as the
splendid collections in our museums amply show.

The degree of success in the textile art is not necessarily a reliable
index of the culture status of the peoples concerned, as progress in a
particular art depends much upon the encouragement given to it by local
features of environment. The tribe that had good clay used earthenware
and neglected basketry, and the community well supplied with skins of
animals did not need to undertake the difficult and laborious task of
spinning fibers and weaving garments and bedding. Thus it appears that
well-advanced peoples may have produced inferior textiles and that
backward tribes may have excelled in the art. Caution is necessary in
using the evidence furnished by the art to aid in determining relative
degrees of culture.


The failure of the textile art to secure a prominent place in the field
of archeologic evidence is due to the susceptibility of the products to
decay. Examples of archaic work survive to us only by virtue of
exceptionally favorable circumstances; it rarely happened that mound
fabrics were so conditioned, as the soil in which they were buried is
generally porous and moist; they were in some cases preserved through
contact with objects of copper, the oxides of that metal having a
tendency to arrest decay. The custom of burial in caves and rock
shelters has led to the preservation of numerous fabrics through the
agency of certain salts with which the soil is charged. Preservation by
charring is common, and it is held by some that carbonization without
the agency of fire has in some cases taken place.

Considerable knowledge of the fabrics of the ancient North American
tribes is preserved in a way wholly distinct from the preceding. The
primitive potter employed woven textiles in the manufacture of
earthenware; during the processes of construction the fabrics were
impressed on the soft clay, and when the vessels were baked the
impressions became fixed. The study of these impressions led to meager
results until the idea was conceived of taking castings from them in
clay, wax, or paper; through this device the negative impression becomes
a positive reproduction and the fabrics are shown in relief, every
feature coming out with surprising distinctness; it is possible even to
discover the nature of the threads employed and to detect the manner of
their combination.

Evidence of the practice of textile arts by many ancient nations is
preserved to us by such implements of weaving as happened to be of
enduring materials; spindle-whorls in clay and stone are perhaps the
most common of these relics. These objects tell us definitely of the
practice of the art, but give little insight into the character of the
products. It is a notable fact that evidence of this class is almost
wholly wanting in the United States; spindle-whorls have in rare cases
been reported from southern localities, and a few writers have mentioned
their use by modern tribes.

It happens that in some cases we may learn something of the progress
made by vanished peoples in this art by a study of the forms of such of
their earthen vessels as were manifestly derived from baskets, or made
in imitation of them. The ornamental art of peoples well advanced in
culture often bears evidence of the influence of the system of
combination of parts followed originally in the textile arts, and little
art, ancient or modern, in which men have endeavored to embody beauty,
is without strongly marked traces of this influence. By the study of
archaic ornament embodied in clay, wood, and stone, therefore, the
archeologist may hope to add something to the sum of his knowledge of
ancient textiles. It should be noted that the pottery of the
mound-builders shows less evidence of the influence of textile forms
than does that of most other nations, and some groups of their ware
appear to present no recognizable traces of it whatever.

Although much information has been brought together from all of the
sources mentioned, it is not at all certain that we can form anything
like a complete or correct notion of the character and scope of the art
as practiced by the mound-builders. No doubt the finest articles of
apparel were often buried with the dead, but a very small fraction only
of the mortuary wrappings or costumes has been preserved, and from vast
areas once thickly inhabited by the most advanced tribes nothing
whatever has been collected. Of embroideries, featherwork, and the like,
so frequently mentioned by early travelers, hardly a trace is left.

The relations of our historic tribes to the ancient peoples of our
continent and to all of the nations, ancient and modern, who built
mounds and earthworks, are now generally considered so intimate that no
objection can be raised to the utilization of the accounts of early
explorers in the elucidation of such features of the art as archeology
has failed to record. The first step in this study may consist quite
properly of a review of what is recorded of the historic art.
Subsequently the purely archeologic data will be given.


In undertaking to classify the textile fabrics of the mound region it
is found that, although there is an unbroken gradation from the rudest
and heaviest textile constructions to the most delicate and refined
textures, a number of well-marked divisions may be made. The
broadest of these is based on the use of spun as opposed to unspun
strands or parts, a classification corresponding somewhat closely to the
division into rigid and pliable forms. Material, method of combination
of parts, and function may each be made the basis of classification,
but for present purposes a simple presentation of the whole body of
products, beginning with the rudest or most primitive forms and ending
with the most elaborate and artistic products, is sufficient. The material
will be presented in the following order: (1) Wattle work; (2)
basketry; (3) matting; (4) pliable fabrics or cloths.


The term wattling is applied to such constructions as employ by
interlacing, plaiting, etc., somewhat heavy, rigid, or slightly pliable
parts, as rods, boughs, canes, and vines. Primitive shelters and
dwellings are very often constructed in this manner, and rafts, cages,
bridges, fish weirs, and inclosures of various kinds were and still are
made or partly made in this manner. As a matter of course, few of these
constructions are known to us save through historic channels; but traces
of wattle work are found in the mounds of the lower Mississippi valley,
where imprints of the interlaced canes occur in the baked clay plaster
with which the dwellings were finished. When we consider the nature of
the materials at hand, and the close correspondence in habits and
customs of our prehistoric peoples with the tribes found living by the
earliest explorers and settlers, we naturally conclude that this class
of construction was very common at all known periods of native American

The constructors of native dwellings generally employed pliable branches
or saplings, which are bound together with vines, twigs, and other more
pliable woody forms. John Smith says of the Indians of Virginia[1]

    Their houses are built like our Arbors, of small young
    springs bowed and tyed, and so close covered with Mats, or
    the barkes of trees very handsomely, that notwithstanding
    either winde, raine, or weather, they are as warm as stooues,
    but very smoaky, yet at the toppe of the house there is a
    hole made for the smoake to goe into right over the fire.

   [1] Hist. Virginia, John Smith. Richmond, 1819, vol. I, p.

Butel-Dumont also, in describing the dwellings of the Natchez Indians of
the lower Mississippi region, speaks of the door of an Indian cabin
"made of dried canes fastened and interlaced on two other canes placed

A singular use of wattle work is mentioned by Lafitau. He states that
the young men, when going through the ordeal of initiation on attaining
their majority, were placed apart in--

    An inclosure very strongly built, made expressly for this
    purpose, one of which I saw in 1694, which belonged to the
    Indians of Paumaünkie. It was in the form of a sugar loaf and
    was open on all sides like a trellis to admit the air.[3]

Of a somewhat similar nature was the construction of biers described by
Butel-Dumont. Speaking of the Mobilians, he says:

    When their chief is dead they proceed as follows: At 15 or 20
    feet from his cabin they erect a kind of platform raised
    about 4½ feet from the ground. This is composed of four
    large forked poles of oak wood planted in the earth, with
    others placed across; this is covered with canes bound and
    interlaced so as to resemble greatly the bed used by the

According to John Lawson, similarly constructed "hurdles" were in use
among the Carolina Indians.

[Illustration: 1.--Fish weir of the Virginia Indiana (after Hariot).]

The tide-water tribes of the Atlantic coast region made very frequent
use of fish weirs, which were essentially textile in character. John
Smith mentions their use in Virginia, and Hariot gives a number of
plates in which the weirs are delineated. The cut here given (figure 1)
is from Hariot's plate XIII. It represents a very elaborate trap; much
simpler forms are shown in other plates. Slender poles set in the
shallow water are held in place by wattling or interlacing of pliable

It is probable that traps of similar character were used by the
mound-building tribes wherever the conditions were favorable. The only
apparent traces of such weirs yet found in any part of the country are a
number of stumps of stakes discovered by H. T. Cresson in Delaware river
near Wilmington, but these appear to be much heavier than would have
been used for the purpose by the natives.

Another somewhat usual use of wattling is mentioned by various authors.
Butel-Dumont speaks of a raft made of poles and canes, and Du Pratz,
writing of the Louisiana Indians, says:

    The conveniencies for passing rivers would soon be suggested
    to them by the floating of wood upon the water. Accordingly
    one of their methods of crossing rivers is upon floats of
    canes, which are called by them Cajeu, and are formed in this
    manner. They cut a great number of canes, which they tie up
    into faggots, part of which they fasten together sideways,
    and over these they lay a few crossways, binding all close
    together, and then launching it into the water.[5]

We learn from various authors that cage-like coffins were constructed of
canes and reeds something after the wattle style; and hampers, cages for
animals, chests for treasures or regalia, biers, carrying chairs, fish
baskets, beds and seats were often similarly made. These articles, being
generally light and portable, and constructed of delicate parts, can as
well be classed with basketry as with wattle work.

   [1] Hist. Virginia, John Smith. Richmond, 1819, vol. I, p.

   [2] Memoires Historiques sur la Louisiane, George Marie
   Butel-Dumont. Paris, 1753, vol. II, p. 104.

   [3] Moeurs dea Sauvages Ameriquains, Père Joseph François
   Lafitau. Paris, 1724, vol. I, p. 286.

   [4] Op. cit., vol. I, p. 244.

   [5] Hist. Louisiana, Le Page Du Pratz. English translation,
   London, 1763, vol. II, pp. 228-229.



Perhaps no branch of the textile art was of greater importance to the
aborigines than basketry. This term may be made to cover all woven
articles of a portable kind which have sufficient rigidity to retain
definite or stable form without distention by contents or by other
extraneous form of support. It will readily be seen that in shape,
texture, use, size, etc., a very wide range of products is here to be
considered. Basketry includes a number of groups of utensils
distinguished from one another by the use to which they are devoted.
There are baskets proper, hampers, cradles, shields, quivers, sieves,
etc. There is frequent historical mention of the use of basketry, but
the descriptions of form and construction are meager. An excellent idea
of the ancient art can be gained from the art of the present time, and
there is every reason to believe that close correspondence exists


Lawson refers to basket-making and other textile arts of the Carolina
Indians in the following language:

    The Indian women's work is to cook the victuals for the whole
    family, and to make mats, baskets, girdles, of possum hair,
    and such like. * * *

    The mats the Indian women make are of rushes, and about five
    feet high, and two fathom long, and sewed double, that is,
    two together; whereby they become very commodious to lay
    under our beds, or to sleep on in the summer season in the
    day time, and for our slaves in the night.

    There are other mats made of flags, which the Tuskeruro
    Indians make, and sell to the inhabitants.

    The baskets our neighboring Indians make are all made of a
    very fine sort of bullrushes, and sometimes of silk grass,
    which they work with figures of beasts, birds, fishes, &c.

    A great way up in the country, both baskets and mats are made
    of the split reeds, which are only the outward shining part
    of the cane. Of these I have seen mats, baskets, and dressing
    boxes, very artificially done.[6]

James Adair, although, a comparatively recent writer, gives such
definite and valuable information regarding the handiwork of the
Southern Indians that the following extracts may well be made. Speaking
of the Cherokees, he remarks:

    They make the handsomest clothes baskets, I ever saw,
    considering their materials. They divide large swamp canes,
    into long, thin, narrow splinters, which they dye of several
    colours, and manage the workmanship so well, that both the
    inside and outside are covered with a beautiful variety of
    pleasing figures; and, though for the space of two inches
    below the upper edge of each basket, it is worked into one,
    through the other parts they are worked asunder, as if they
    were two joined a-top by some strong cement. A large nest
    consists of eight or ten baskets, contained within each
    other. Their dimensions are different, but they usually make
    the outside basket about a foot deep, a foot and an half
    broad, and almost a yard long.[7]

This statement could in most respects be made with equal truth and
propriety of the Cherokee work of the present time; and their
pre-Columbian art must have been even more pleasing, as the following
paragraph suggests:

    The Indians, by reason of our supplying them so cheap with
    every sort of goods, have forgotten the chief part of their
    ancient mechanical skill, so as not to be well able now, at
    least for some years, to live independent of us. Formerly,
    those baskets which the Cheerake made, were so highly
    esteemed even in South Carolina, the politest of our
    colonies, for domestic usefulness, beauty, and skilful
    variety, that a large nest of them cost upwards of a

That there was much uniformity in the processes and range of products
and uses throughout the country is apparent from statements made by
numerous writers. Speaking of the Louisiana Indians, Du Pratz says:

    The women likewise make a kind of hampers to carry corn,
    flesh, fish, or any other thing which they want to transport
    from one place to another; they are round, deeper than broad,
    and of all sizes. * * * They make baskets with long lids that
    roll doubly over them, and in these they place their earrings
    and pendants, their bracelets, garters, their ribbands for
    their hair, and their vermillion for painting themselves, if
    they have any, but when they have no vermillion they boil
    ochre, and paint themselves with that.[9]

It happens that few baskets have been recovered from mounds and graves,
but they are occasionally reported as having been discovered in caverns
and shelters where conditions were especially favorable to their
preservation. Such specimens may as reasonably be attributed to the
mound-building as to the other Indians. The following statement is from
John Haywood:

    On the south side of Cumberland river, about 22 miles above
    Cairo, * * * is a cave * * *. In this room, near about the
    center, were found sitting in baskets made of cane, three
    human bodies; the flesh entire, but a little shrivelled, and
    not much so. The bodies were those of a man, a female and a
    small child. The complexion of all was very fair, and white,
    without any intermixture of the copper colour. Their eyes
    were blue; their hair auburn, and fine. The teeth were very
    white, their stature was delicate, about the size of the
    whites of the present day. The man was wrapped in 14 dressed
    deer skins. The 14 deer skins were wrapped in what those
    present called blankets. They were made of bark, like those
    found in the cave in White county. The form of the baskets
    which inclosed them, was pyramidal, being larger at the
    bottom, and declining to the top. The heads of the skeletons,
    from the neck, were above the summits of the blankets.[10]


It is apparent that baskets of open construction were employed as sieves
in pre-Columbian as well as in post-Columbian times. Almost any basket
could be utilized on occasion for separating fine from coarse particles
of food or other pulverulent substances, but special forms were
sometimes made for the purpose, having varying degrees of refinement to
suit the material to be separated.

Bartram mentions the use of a sieve by the Georgia Indians in straining
a "cooling sort of jelly" called conti, made by pounding certain roots
in a mortar and adding water.

Butel-Dumont describes the sieves and winnowing fans of the Louisiana
Indians. The Indian women, he says, make very fine sieves--

    With the skin which they take off of the canes; they also
    make some with larger holes, which serve as bolters, and
    still others without holes, to be used as winnowing fans. * *
    * They also make baskets very neatly fashioned, cradles for
    holding maize; and with the tail feathers of turkeys, which
    they have much skill in arranging, they make fans not only
    for their own use, but which even our French women do not
    disdain to use.[11]

Le Page Du Pratz says that "for sifting the flour of their maiz, and
for other uses, the natives make sieves of various finenesses of the splits
of cane;"[12] and a similar use by the Indians of Virginia is recorded by
John Smith:

    They use a small basket for their Temmes, then pound againe
    the great, and so separating by dashing their hand in the
    basket, receive the flowr in a platter of wood scraped to
    that forme with burning and shels.[13]

From Hakluyt we have the following:

    Their old wheat they firste steepe a night in hot water, and
    in the morning pounding yt in a morter, they use a small
    baskett for the boulter or searser, and when they have syfted
    fourth the finest, they pound againe the great, and so
    separating yt by dashing their hand in the baskett, receave
    the flower in a platter of wood, which, blending with water,


That cradles of textile construction were used by the mound-builders may
be taken for granted. The following is from Du Pratz, who is speaking of
the work of the inhabitants of the lower Mississippi:

    This cradle is about two feet and a half long, nine inches
    broad. It is skillfully made of straight canes of the length
    desired for the cradle, and at the end they are cut in half
    and doubled under to form the foot. The whole is only half a
    foot high. This cradle is very light, weighing only two
    pounds. * * * The infant being rocked lengthwise, its head is
    not shaken as are those who are rocked from side to side, as
    in France. * * * The cradle is rocked by means of two ends of
    canes, which make two rollers.[15]


Woven targets or shields would seem to be rather novel objects, but such
are mentioned by John Smith, who used those belonging to friendly
Indians in an encounter on the Chesapeake:

    Here the Massawomek Targets stood vs in good stead, for vpon
    Mosco's words we had set them about the forepart of our Boat
    like a forecastle, from whence we securely beat the Salvages
    from off the plaine without any hurt. * * * Arming ourselues
    with these light Targets (which are made of little small
    sticks woven betwixt strings of their hempe and silke grasse,
    as is our cloth, but so firmly that no arrow can possibly
    pierce them).[16]

   [6] Hist. of Carolina, etc., John Lawson. London, 1714, pp.
   307, 308.

   [7] History of the American Indians. London, 1775, p. 424.

   [8] Ibid., p. 424.

   [9] Hist. Louisiana. English translation, London, 1763, vol.
   II, pp. 227-228.

   [10] Nat. and Abor. Hist. of Tenn., John Haywood. Nashville,
   1823, pp. 191-192.

   [11] Op. cit., vol. I, p. 154.

   [12] Op. cit., vol. II, p. 226.

   [13] Hist. Virginia, John Smith. Richmond, 1819, p. 127.

   [14] Hist. of Travaile into Virginia: Win. Strachey, Hakluyt
   Society, Lond., 1844, vol. VI, p. 73.

   [15] Hist. Louisiana, vol. II, pp. 310, 311.

   [16] Op. cit., p. 185.


No class of articles of textile nature were more universally employed by
the aborigines than mats of split cane, rushes, and reeds, and our
information, derived from literature and from such remnants of the
articles themselves as have been recovered from graves and caves, is
quite full and satisfactory. Mats are not so varied in form and
character as are baskets, but their uses were greatly diversified; they
served for carpeting, seats, hangings, coverings, and wrappings, and
they were extensively employed in permanent house construction, and for
temporary or movable shelters. A few brief extracts will serve to
indicate their use in various classes of construction by the tribes
first encountered by the whites.

Hariot says that the houses of the Virginia Indians--

    Are made of small poles made fast at the tops in rounde forme
    after the maner as is vsed in many arbories in our gardens of
    England, in most townes couered with barkes, and in some with
    artificiall mattes made of long rushes; from the tops of the
    houses downe to the ground.[17]


_a_, Openwork fish baskets of Virginia Indians; _b_, manner of weaving;
_c_, basket strainer; _d_, quiver of rushes; _e_, mat of rushes.]

It would appear from a study of the numerous illustrations of houses
given by this author that the mats so often referred to were identical
in construction with those still in use among the tribes of the upper
Mississippi and the far west. The rushes are laid close together side by
side and bound together at long intervals by cords intertwined across.
In _e_, plate I, is reproduced a small portion of a mat from Hariot's
engraving of the dead-house of the Virginia Indians, which shows this
method of construction.

The modern use of mats of this class in house construction is known by
an example which I have seen represented in a small photograph, taken
about the year 1868, and representing a Chippewa village, situated
somewhere in the upper Missouri valley, probably not far from Sioux
City, Iowa.

[Illustration: FIG. 2.--Use of mats in an Indian council (after

Mats were used not only in and about the dwellings of the aborigines,
but it was a common practice to carry them from place to place to sleep
on, or for use as seats or carpeting in meetings or councils of
ceremonious nature. The latter use is illustrated in a number of the
early accounts of the natives. Figure 2, copied from Lafitau, serves to
indicate the common practice.

The omnipresent sweat-house of the aborigines is thus described by

    Sometimes they are troubled with dropsies, swellings, aches,
    and such like diseases; for cure whereof they build a Stone
    in the forme of a Doue-house with mats, so close that a few
    coales therein covered with a pot, will make the patient
    sweat extreamely.[18]

Bartram, speaking of the Seminoles, states that the wide steps leading
up to the canopied platform of the council house are "covered with
carpets or mats, curiously woven of split canes dyed of various

The use of mats in the mound country in very early times is described by
Joutel as follows:

    Their moveables are some bullocks' hides and goat skins well
    cured, some mats close wove, wherewith they adorn their huts,
    and some earthen vessels which they are very skilful at
    making, and wherein they boil their flesh or roots, or
    sagamisé, which, as has been said, is their pottage. They
    have also some small baskets made of canes, serving to put in
    their fruit and other provisions. Their beds are made of
    canes, raised 2 or 3 feet above the ground, handsomely fitted
    with mats and bullocks' hides, or goat skins well cured,
    which serve them for feather beds, or quilts and blankets;
    and those beds are parted one from another by mats hung

The mats so much used for beds and carpets and for the covering of
shelters, houses, etc., were probably made of pliable materials such as
rushes. De la Potherie illustrates their use as beds,[21] one end of the
mat being rolled up for a pillow as shown in figure 3.

[Illustration: FIG. 3.--Use of mat in sleeping (after De la Potherie).]

The sizes of mats were greatly varied; the smallest were sufficient for
seating only a single person, but the largest were many yards in length,
the width being restricted to a few feet by the conditions of

Mats were woven in two or more styles. Where the strands or parts were
uniform in size and rigidity they were simply interlaced, but when one
strong or rigid series was to be kept in place by a pliable series, the
latter were twisted about the former at the intersections as in ordinary
twined weaving. The heavy series of strands or parts were held together
side by side by the intertwined strands placed far apart, a common
practice yet among native mat-makers. Much variety of character and
appearance was given to the fabric by varying the order of the strands
in intersection. It was a common practice to interweave strands of
different size, shape, or color, thus producing borders and patterns of
no little beauty. Du Pratz thus mentions the use of dyes by the
Louisiana Indians: "The women sometimes add to this furniture of the bed
mats woven of cane, dyed of 3 colours, which colours in the weaving are
formed into various figures."[22] This is well illustrated in the mat
from a rock shelter in Tennessee, later to be described, and the Indians
of the east and north practiced the same art.

Speaking of the ceremony of smoking the calumet among the Iroquois, De
la Potherie says:

    The ceremony is held in a large cabin in winter and in summer
    in an open field. The place being chosen, it is surrounded
    with branches to shade the company. In the center is spread a
    large mat of canes dyed in various colors, which serves as a

Frequent mention is made of the use of mats in burial. Two brief
extracts will serve to illustrate this use. Butel-Dumont makes the
following statement regarding tribes of the lower Mississippi:

    The Paskagoulas and Billoxis do not inter their chief when he
    dies, but they dry the corpse with fire and smoke in such a
    way that it becomes a mere skeleton. After it is reduced to
    this state they carry it to the temple (for they have one as
    well as the Natchez) and put it in the place of its
    predecessor, which they take from the spot it occupied and
    place it with the bodies of the other chiefs at the bottom of
    the temple, where they are arranged one after the other,
    standing upright like statues. As for the newly deceased, he
    is exposed at the entrance of the temple on a sort of altar
    or table made of cane and covered with a fine mat very neatly
    worked in red and yellow squares with the skin of the

Brackenridge[25] says that a few years ago, in the state of Tennessee,
"Two human bodies were found in a copperas cave in a surprising state of
preservation. They were first wrapped up in a kind of blanket, supposed
to have been manufactured of the lint of nettles, afterwards with
dressed skins, and then a mat of nearly 60 yards in length."

   [17] A Brief and True account of the New Found Land of
   Virginia, Thomas Hariot, p. 24.

   [18] A Brief and True account of the New Found Land of
   Virginia, Thomas Hariot, p. 137.

   [19] William Bartram's Travels, etc. London, 1792, p. 302.

   [20] Joutel, in B. F. French's Historical Collections of
   Louisiana. New York, 1846, p. 149.

   [21] Hist. de l'Amér. Sept., Bacqueville de la Potherie. Paris,
   1722, vol. III. Plate opposite p. 24.

   [22] Hist. Louisiana, Du Pratz. English translation. London,
   1763, vol. II, p. 227.

   [23] Hist. de l'Amér. Sept., vol. II, p. 17.

   [24] Mem. sur la Louisiane, vol. I, pp. 240-241.

   [25] Views of Louisiana, H. M. Brackenridge, 1817, p. 178.



The use of simple strands or parts in textile art precedes the use of
spun threads, but the one use leads very naturally up to the other. In
employing rushes, stems, grasses, etc., the smaller strands were doubled
to secure uniformity of size, and when a number of parts were used
they were combined into one by twisting or plaiting. In time the
advantage in strength and pliability of twisted strands came to be
recognized, and this led to the general utilization of fibrous substances,
and finally to the manufacture of suitable fibers by manipulating the
bark of trees and plants. Spinning was probably not devised until
the weaver's art had made considerable advance, but its invention
opened a new and broad field and led to the development of a magnificent
industry. Semi-rigid fabrics served for a wide range of uses,
as already described, but soft and pliable cloths for personal use and
ornament were made possible only by the introduction of spinning.

On the arrival of the whites the native art was well advanced;
thread, cordage, and even ropes of considerable weight were made with
a degree of uniformity and refinement that surprises us. The finest
threads with which I am acquainted are perhaps not as fine as our no.
10 ordinary spool cotton thread, but we are not justified in assuming
that more refined work was not done. What we have is only that which
happened to be preserved through burial with the dead or by impression
on the plastic surface of clay used in the arts.

The materials employed for spinning by the aborigines were greatly
diversified. Through historical as well as through purely archeologic
sources we learn that both vegetal and animal filaments and fibers were
freely used. The inner bark of the mulberry was a favorite material,
but other fibrous barks were utilized. Wild hemp, nettles, grasses,
and other like growths furnished much of the finer fibers. The hackling
was accomplished by means of the simplest devices, such as pounding
with hammers or sticks. The hair and sinews of animals were frequently
spun into threads and woven into cloth.

A few citations from early authors will indicate sufficiently for
present purposes the methods of spinning and weaving employed by tribes
which, if not in all cases mound-builders, were at least the neighbors
and relatives of the mound-building Indians.


The character of the woven articles is to a great extent indicated in
the extracts which follow. It evidently was not customary to weave
"piece" goods, but rather to make separate units of costumes,
furnishing, etc., for use without cutting, fitting, and sewing. Each
piece was practically complete when it came from the frame or loom. For
clothing and personal use there were mantles, shawls, and cloaks to be
worn over one or both shoulders or about the body as described by
Hariot, Smith, the Knight of Elvas, Du Pratz, and others; there were
skirts fastened about the waist and drawn with an inserted cord or
looped over a belt; there were belts, sashes, garters, shot pouches, and
bags. For household use there were hangings, covers for various
articles, and bedclothing; there were nets for fishing and cords for
angling. Some of these extracts describe the whole group of activities
included in the practice of the art as well as the use of the products.
I have considered it preferable to quote as a unit all that is said on
the subject by each author, giving cross reference, when necessary, in
discussing particular topics under other headings.

Weaving among the Indians of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and the
northeast is described by Kalm, De la Potherie, and others. The
following extracts are from Kalm, and will serve to indicate the status
of the art over a wide area:

    _Apocynum cannabinum_ was by the Swedes called Hemp of the
    Indians; and grew plentifully in old corn grounds, in woods on
    hills, and in high glades. The Swedes had given it the name of
    Indian hemp, because the Indians formerly, and even now, apply
    it to the same purposes as the Europeans do hemp; for the
    stalk may be divided into filaments, and is easily prepared.
    When the Indians were yet settled among the Swedes, in
    Pensylvania and New Jersey, they made ropes of this apocynum,
    which the Swedes bought, and employed them as bridles, and for
    nets. These ropes were stronger, and kept longer in water,
    than such as were made of common hemp. The Swedes commonly got
    fourteen yards of these ropes for one piece of bread. Many of
    the Europeans still buy such ropes, because they last so well.
    The Indians likewise make several other stuffs of their hemp.
    On my journey through the country of the Iroquese, I saw the
    women employed in manufacturing this hemp. They made use
    neither of spinning wheels nor distaffs, but rolled the
    filaments upon their bare thighs, and made thread and strings
    of them, which they dyed red, yellow, black, etc., and
    afterwards worked them into stuffs, with a great deal of
    ingenuity. The plant is perennial, which renders the annual
    planting of it altogether unnecessary. Out of the root and
    stalk of this plant, when it is fresh, comes a white milky
    juice, which is somewhat poisonous. Sometimes the fishing
    tackle of the Indians consists entirely of this hemp. The
    Europeans make no use of it, that I know of.[26]

In another place this author describes the weaving of bark fibers:

    The _Direa palustris_, or Mouse-wood, is a little shrub which
    grows on hills, towards swamps and marshes, and was now in
    full blossom. The English in Albany call it Leather-wood,
    because its bark is as tough as leather. The French in Canada
    call it Bois de Plomb, or Leaden-wood because the wood itself
    is as soft and as tough as lead. The bark of this shrub was
    made use of for ropes, baskets, etc., by the Indians, whilst
    they lived among the Swedes. And it is really very fit for
    that purpose, on account of its remarkable strength, and
    toughness, which is equal to that of the Lime-tree bark. The
    English and the Dutch in many parts of North America, and the
    French in Canada, employ this bark in all cases where we make
    use of Lime-tree bark in Europe. The tree itself is very
    tough, and you cannot easily separate its branches without
    the help of a knife: some people employ the twigs for

De la Potherie, who wrote at an earlier date than Kalm, says--

    The women spin on their knees, twisting the thread with the
    palm of the hand; they make this thread, which should rather
    be called twine (fisselle), into little balls.[28]

Hariot, John Smith, and Adair bear witness to the primitive practice of
the art in Virginia and the Carolinas. Smith uses the following words:

     Betwixt their hands and thighes, their women vse to spin,
     the barkes of trees, Deere sinewes, or a kinde of grasse
     they call Pemmenaw, of these they make a thread very even
     and readily. This thread serveth for many vses. As about
     their housing apparell, as also they make nets for fishing,
     for the quantitie as formally as ours. They make also with
     it lines for angles.[29]

The Cherokees and other Indians with whom Adair came in contact
preserved in their purity many of the ancient practices. The following
extracts are, therefore, of much importance to the historian of the
textile art in America:

    Formerly, the Indians made very handsome carpets. They have a
    wild hemp that grows about six feet high, in open, rich,
    level lands, and which usually ripens in July: it is plenty
    on our frontier settlements. When it is fit for use, they
    pull, steep, peel, and beat it; and the old women spin it off
    the distaffs, with wooden machines, having some clay on the
    middle of them, to hasten the motion. When the coarse thread
    is prepared, they put it into a frame about six feet square,
    and instead of a shuttle, they thrust through the thread with
    a long cane, having a large string through the web, which
    they shift at every second course of the thread. When they
    have thus finished their arduous labour, they paint each side
    of the carpet with such figures, of various colours, as their
    fruitful imaginations devise; particularly the images of
    those birds and beasts they are acquainted with; and likewise
    of themselves, acting in their social, and martial stations.
    There is that due proportion and so much wild variety in the
    design, that would really strike a curious eye with pleasure
    and admiration. J. W--t, Esq., a most skilful linguist in the
    Muskohge dialect, assures me, that time out of mind they
    passed the woof with a shuttle; and they have a couple of
    threddles, which they move with the hand so as to enable them
    to make good dispatch, something after our manner of weaving.
    This is sufficiently confirmed by their method of working
    broad garters, sashes, shot pouches, broad belts, and the
    like, which are decorated all over with beautiful stripes and

    The women are the chief, if not the only, manufacturers; the
    men judge that if they performed that office, it would
    exceedingly depreciate them. * * * In the winter season, the
    women gather buffalo's hair, a sort of coarse, brown, curled
    wool; and having spun it as fine as they can, and properly
    doubled it, they put small beads of different colours upon
    the yarn, as they work it, the figures they work in those
    small webs, are generally uniform, but sometimes they
    diversify them on both sides. The Choktah weave shot-pouches
    which have raised work inside and outside. They likewise make
    turkey feather blankets with the long feathers of the neck
    and breast of that large fowl--they twist the inner end of
    the feathers very fast into a strong double thread of hemp,
    or the inner bark of the mulberry tree, of the size and
    strength of coarse twine, as the fibres are sufficiently
    fine, and they work it in manner of fine netting. As the
    feathers are long and glittering, this sort of blankets is
    not only very warm, but pleasing to the eye.[30]

The extent and importance of the art among the Gulf tribes are indicated
by a number of early observers. The Knight of Elvas speaks of
the use of blankets by the Indians, 83 degrees west longitude, and 32
degrees north latitude, or near the central portion of Georgia:

    These are like shawls, some of them are made from the inner
    barks of trees, and others from a grass resembling nettle,
    which, by threading out, becomes like flax. The women use
    them for covering, wearing one about the body from the waist
    downward, and another over the shoulder, with the right arm
    left free, after the manner of the gypsies: the men wear but
    one, which they carry over their shoulders in the same way,
    the loins being covered with a bragueiro of deer-skin, after
    the fashion of the woolen breech-cloth that was once the
    custom of Spain. The skins are well dressed, the color being
    given to them that is wished, and in such perfection, that,
    when of vermilion, they look like very fine red broadcloth,
    and when black, the sort in use for shoes, they are of the
    purest. The same hues are given to blankets.[31]

At Cutifachiqui similar fabrics were observed:

    In the barbacoas were large quantities of clothing, shawls of
    thread, made from the barks of trees and others of feathers,
    white gray, vermilion and yellow, rich and proper for

The frequent mention of fabrics used by the Indians for shawls, mantles,
etc., makes it plain that such were in very general use when the town of
Pacaha was captured, and the Spaniards clothed themselves with mantles,
cassocks, and gowns made from these native garments. Everywhere woven
shawls were a principal feature of the propitiatory gifts of the natives
to the Spaniards.

The extent of this manufacture of hempen garments by the Indians of the
lower Mississippi is well indicated in the account of the adventures of
the expedition on the western side of the Mississippi at Aminoga. The
Spaniards undertook the construction of brigantines by means of which
they hoped to descend the Mississippi and to pass along the gulf coast
to Mexico. A demand was made upon the natives for shawls to be used in
the manufacture of sails, and great numbers were brought. Native hemp
and the ravelings of shawls were used for calking the boats.[33] What a
novel sight must have been this first European fleet on the great river,
consisting of five brigantines impelled by sails of native manufacture!

It is worthy of note that in this region (of the lower Mississippi) the
Spaniards saw shawls of cotton, brought, it was said, from the
west--probably the Pueblo country, as they were accompanied by objects
that from the description may have been ornaments of turquois.[34]

The following is from Du Pratz:

    Many of the women wear cloaks of the bark of the
    mulberry-tree, or of the feathers of swans, turkies, or India
    ducks. The bark they take from young mulberry shoots that
    rise from the roots of trees that have been cut down; after
    it is dried in the sun they beat it to make all the woody
    part fall off, and they give the threads that remain a second
    beating, after which they bleach them by exposing them to the
    dew. When they are well whitened they spin them about the
    coarseness of pack-thread, and weave them in the following
    manner: they plant two stakes in the ground about a yard and
    a half asunder, and having stretched a cord from the one to
    the other, they fasten their threads of bark double to this
    cord, and then interweave them in a curious manner into a
    cloak of about a yard square with a wrought border round the
    edges. * * * The girls at the age of eight or ten put on a
    little petticoat, which is a kind of fringe made of threads
    of mulberry bark.[35]

This is illustrated farther on.

The manner of weaving in the middle and upper Mississippi country is
described by Hunter, who, speaking of the Osage Indians and their
neighbors, says:

    The hair of the buffalo and other animals is sometimes
    manufactured into blankets; the hair is first twisted by
    hand, and wound into balls. The warp is then laid of a length
    to answer the size of the intended blanket, crossed by three
    small smooth rods alternately beneath the threads, and
    secured at each end to stronger rods supported on forks, at a
    short distance above the ground. Thus prepared, the woof is
    filled in, thread by thread, and pressed closely together, by
    means of a long flattened wooden needle. When the weaving is
    finished, the ends of the warp and woof are tied into knots,
    and the blanket is ready for use. In the same manner they
    construct mats from flags and rushes, on which, particularly
    in warm weather, they sleep and sit.[36]

Fabrics of various kinds were employed in burial, although not generally
made for that purpose. The wrappings of dead bodies were often very
elaborate, and the consignment of these to tombs and graves where the
conditions were favorable to preservation has kept them for long periods
in a most perfect state. By exhumation we have obtained most of our
information on this subject. Our knowledge is, however, greatly
increased by descriptions of such burial customs as were witnessed in
early times. Extracts already given refer to the use of fabrics in
mortuary customs. Many others could be cited but the following seems

    After the dead person has lain a day and a night in one of
    their hurdles of canes, commonly in some out house made for
    that purpose, those that officiate about the funeral go into
    the town, and the first young men they meet withal, that have
    blankets or match coats on, whom they think fit for their
    turn, they strip them from their backs, who suffer them so to
    do without any resistance. In these they wrap the dead
    bodies, and cover them with two or three mats which the
    Indians make of rushes or cane; and, last of all, they have a
    long web of woven reeds or hollow canes, which is the coffin
    of the Indians, and is brought round several times and tied
    fast at both ends, which, indeed, looks very decent and well.
    Then the corps is brought out of the house into the orchard
    of peach trees, where another hurdle is made to receive it,
    about which comes all the relations and nation that the dead
    person belonged to, besides several from other nations in
    alliance with them; all which sit down on the ground upon
    mats spread there for that purpose.[37]


The manufacture and use of nets by natives in various parts of the
country are recorded by early writers, some of whom have already been
quoted. Speaking of the Iroquois De la Potherie says:

    The old men and those who can not or do not wish to go to war
    or the chase, make nets and are fishers. This is a plebian
    trade among them. Their nets are made of thread of nettles or
    of white wood, the bark of which they make into thread by
    means of lye which renders it strong and pliable.[38]

In another place the same author says:

    The Sauteurs, who are beyond the Missisakis, take their name
    from a Saut (waterfall) which flows from Lake Superior into
    Lake Huron by a great fall whose rapids are extremely
    violent. These people are very skillful in fishery by which
    they obtain white fish as large as salmons. They cross all
    these terrible rapids into which they cast a net like a sack,
    a little more than half an ell in width by one in depth
    attached to a forked stick about 15 feet long.[39]

A novel use of nets is recorded by this author as follows:

    For taking pigeons in summer in nets, they make a broad path
    in the woods and attach to two trees, one on each side, a
    large net made in the shape of a sack well opened.[40]

Du Pratz, speaking of the fishing nets of the Louisiana Indians, states
that they "are meshed like ours and made of lime-tree bark; the large
fish are shot with arrows."[41]


Feather work was one of the most remarkable arts of the natives of
Mexico and other southern countries at the period of the conquest. The
feathers were sometimes woven in with the woof and sometimes applied to
a network base after the fashion of embroidery. Rarely, it may be
imagined, were either spun or unspun fabrics woven of feathers alone.
Very pleasing specimens of ancient Peruvian feather work are recovered
from graves at Ancon and elsewhere, and the method of inserting the
feathers is illustrated in the Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of
Ethnology.[42] In few instances has such work been recovered from mounds
or burial places, but there can be no doubt that the mound-building
tribes were experts in this art. Frequent mention is made of the feather
work of the natives by the earliest explorers of the Mississippi valley,
and the character of the work may be gathered from the extracts already
given and from those which follow.

John Smith, speaking of the feather work of the Virginia Indians, says:

    We haue seene some vse mantels made of Turky feathers, so
    prettily wrought and woven with threads that nothing could be
    discerned but the feathers.[43]

Lawson mentions a "doctor" of the Santee nation who "was warmly and
neatly clad with a match coat, made of turkies feathers, which makes a
pretty show, seeming as if it was a garment of the deepest silk

In another place the same author says:

    Their feather match coats are very pretty, especially some of
    them, which are made extraordinary charming, containing
    several pretty figures wrought in feathers, making them seem
    like a fine flower silk shag; and when new and fresh, they
    become a bed very well, instead of a quilt. Some of another
    sort are made of hair, raccoon, bever, or squirrel skins,
    which are very warm. Others again are made of the greenpart
    of the skin of a mallard's head, which they sew perfectly
    well together, their thread being either the sinews of a deer
    divided very small, or silk grass. When these are finished,
    they look very finely, though they must needs be very
    troublesome to make.[45]

Du Pratz thus describes the art in Louisiana:

    If the women know how to do this kind of work they make
    mantles either of feathers or woven of the bark of the
    mulberry tree. We will describe their method of doing this.
    The feather mantles are made on a frame similar to that on
    which the peruke makers work hair; they spread the feathers
    in the same manner and fasten them on old fish nets or old
    mantles of mulberry bark. They are placed, spread in this
    manner, one over the other and on both sides; for this
    purpose small turkey feathers are used; women who have
    feathers of swans or India ducks, which are white, make these
    feather mantles for women of high rank.[46]

Butel-Dumont describes feather work of the natives of Louisiana briefly
as follows:

    They [the women] also, without a spinning wheel or distaff,
    spin the hair or wool of cattle of which they make garters
    and ribands; and with the thread which they obtain from
    lime-tree bark, they make a species of mantle, which they
    cover with the finest swan's feathers fastened one by one to
    the material. A long task indeed, but they do not count this
    trouble and time when it concerns their satisfaction.[47]


The use of beads, quills, and other articles to beautify the surfaces
of fabrics and skins was as common, no doubt, with the ancient as with
the modern native inhabitants of the Mississippi valley. In discoursing
on the dress of native women of Louisiana Butel-Dumont says that
the young girls wear--

    * * * a sort of network attached to the waist and terminating
    in a point, * * * both sides of which are ornamented with
    ribbons of thread made from lime-tree fiber, also made into
    network. From the waist to the knees hang several cords of
    the same thread, to the ends of which are attached claws of
    birds of prey, such as eaglets, crows, etc., so that when the
    girls walk these make a rattling noise which is highly
    pleasing to them. This kind of ornament does not illy
    resemble those nets which we use to cover our horses to
    protect them from flies.[48]

From Du Pratz we have the following:

    The women make also designs in embroidery with the skin of
    the porcupine; they remove for this purpose the skin of this
    animal, which is white and black; they split it very fine to
    use as embroidery thread, dye a part of the white skin a red
    color, another part yellow, and a third part is left white;
    they usually work on black skin, and dye the black a reddish
    brown; but if they work on bark, the black [threads] remain
    the same. Their designs are very similar to some of those
    found in Gothic architecture; they are composed of straight
    lines which form right angles at their conjunction, which is
    commonly called the corner of a square. They also work
    similar designs on mantles and coverings which they make with
    the bark of the mulberry tree.[49]

John Smith testifies to the same practices in Virginia as shown in the
following lines:

    For their apparell, they are sometimes covered with the
    skinnes of wilde beasts, which in Winter are dressed with the
    hayre, but in Sommer without. The better sort use large
    mantels of Deare skins, not much differing in fashion from
    the Irish mantels. Some imbrodered with white beads, some
    with Copper, other painted after their manner. * * * We haue
    seene some use mantels made of Turky feathers, so prettily
    wrought and woven with threads that nothing could be
    discerned but the feathers.[50]

   [26] Travels in North America, Peter Kalm. English translation,
   London, 1771, vol. II, pp. 131, 132.

   [27] Ibid., pp. 148-149.

   [28] Hist. de l'Amérique, Sept., vol. III, p. 34.

   [29] Hist. Virginia. Richmond, 1819, pp. 132-133.

   [30] History of the American Indians. London, 1775, pp. 422,

   [31] Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the
   Conquest of Florida as told by a Knight of Elvas. Translated
   by Buckingham Smith. New York, 1866, p. 52.

   [32] Ibid., p. 63.

   [33] Narratives of the Career of Hernando de Soto in the
   Conquest of Florida as told by a Knight of Elvas. Translated
   by Buckingham Smith. New York, 1866, p. 160-70.

   [34] Ibid., p. 164.

   [35] Hist. Louisiana, op. cit., vol. II, p. 23.

   [36] Memoirs of a captive among the Indians of North America,
   John D. Hunter. London, 1823, pp. 289-290.

   [37] Hist. of Carolina, John Lawson. London, 1714; reprint,
   Raleigh, N. C., 1800, pp. 293-294.

   [38] Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale, Bacqueville de la
   Potherie, vol. III, pp. 33-34.

   [39] Ibid., vol. II, pp. 60-61.

   [40] Ibid., vol. II, p. 80.

   [41] Histoire de la Louisiane, vol. II, pp. 179-180.

   [42] The Textile Art, W. H. Holmes, p. 231.

   [43] Hist. Virginia, John Smith. Richmond, 1819, vol. I, p.

   [44] Hist. Carolina, John Lawson. Raleigh, 1860, p. 37.

   [45] Ibid., pp. 311-312.

   [46] Hist. de la Louisiane, vol. II, pp. 191-192.

   [47] Memoire sur la Louisiane. Paris, 1753, vol. I, pp.

   [48] Ibid., vol, I, pp. 138-139.

   [49] Historie de la Louisiane, vol. II, pp. 184-185.

   [50] Hist. Virginia. Richmond, 1819, vol. I, pp. 129-130.



Contenting myself with the preceding references to the practice of the
arts of spinning and weaving in the various regions of the country,
I pass on to an examination of the archeologic material which includes
traces or remnants of the weaver's work from all sections of the
country. As already mentioned, there are a number of ways in which
textile articles or data relating to them may be preserved in such
manner as to permit examination and study.


Through charring by the use of fire in burial rites, and by contact with
copper or preservative salts in burial caves, numerous pieces of cloth
and parts of costumes have come into our possession. One of the most
fertile sources of information has but recently been made available. The
ancient potter employed woven fabrics in handling, finishing, and
decorating pottery. From mounds, graves, and dwelling sites, all over
the country, vases and sherds are found covered with impressions of
these fabrics, and so well preserved that by taking casts in clay or wax
entirely satisfactory restorations are made. Something may be learned
from the recovery of implements of spinning and weaving, but up to this
time the only relics secured are a few rather rude spindle whorls.

I shall present in the following paragraphs such portions of the available
data as seem calculated to illustrate briefly and clearly the nature
of the ancient art.


At an early date in the history of the country reports began to find
their way into print relating to the discovery of mortuary fabrics in
caverns and shelters. Extracts from some of these publications may
be given.

From the writing of John Haywood historian of Tennessee, we have the

    In the spring of the year 1811, was found in a copperas cave
    in Warren county, in West Tennessee, about 15 miles southwest
    from Sparta, and 20 from McMinnville, the bodies of two human
    beings, which had been covered by the dirt or ore from which
    copperas was made. One of these persons was a male, the other
    a female. They were interred in baskets, made of cane,
    curiously wrought, and evidencing great mechanic skill. They
    were both dislocated at the hip joint, and were placed erect
    in the baskets, with a covering made of cane to fit the
    baskets in which they were placed. The flesh of these persons
    was entire and undecayed, of a brown dryish colour, produced
    by time, the flesh having adhered closely to the bones and
    sinews. Around the female, next her body, was placed a well
    dressed deer skin. Next to this was placed a rug, very
    curiously wrought, of the bark of a tree and feathers. The
    bark seemed to have been formed of small strands well
    twisted. Around each of these strands, feathers were rolled,
    and the whole woven into a cloth of firm texture, after the
    manner of our common coarse fabrics. This rug was about three
    feet wide, and between six and seven feet in length. The
    whole of the ligaments thus framed of bark were completely
    covered with feathers, forming a body of about one eighth of
    an inch in thickness, the feathers extending about one
    quarter of an inch in length from the strand to which they
    were confined. The appearance was highly diversified by
    green, blue, yellow and black, presenting different shades of
    colour when reflected upon by the light in different
    positions. The next covering was an undressed deer skin,
    around which was rolled, in good order, a plain shroud
    manufactured after the same order as the one ornamented with
    feathers. This article resembled very much in its texture the
    bags generally used for the purpose of holding coffee
    exported from Havanna to the United States. The female had in
    her hand a fan formed of the tail feathers of a turkey. The
    points of these feathers were curiously bound by a buckskin
    string, well dressed, and were thus closely bound for about
    one inch from the points. About three inches from the point
    they were again bound, by another deer skin string, in such a
    manner that the fan might be closed and expanded at pleasure.
    * * *

    The cave in which they were found, abounded in nitre,
    copperas, alum, and salts. The whole of this covering, with
    the baskets, was perfectly sound, without any marks of

    There was also a scoop net made of bark thread; a mockasin
    made of the like materials; a mat of the same materials,
    enveloping human bones, were found in saltpetre dirt, six
    feet below the surface. The net and other things mouldered on
    being exposed to the sun.[52]

In the year 1815 a remarkably interesting set of mortuary fabrics was
recovered from a saltpeter cave near Glasgow, Kentucky. A letter from
Samuel L. Mitchell, published by the American Antiquarian Society,
contains the following description of the condition of the human remains
and of the nature of its coverings:

    The outer envelope of the body is a deer skin, probably dried
    in the usual way, and perhaps softened before its
    application, by rubbing. The next covering is a deer skin,
    whose hair had been cut away by a sharp instrument,
    resembling a hatter's knife. The remnant of the hair, and the
    gashes in the skin, nearly resemble the sheared pelt of
    beaver. The next wrapper of cloth is made of twine doubled
    and twisted. But the thread does not appear to have been
    formed by the wheel, nor the web by the loom. The warp and
    filling seemed to have been crossed and knotted by an
    operation like that of the fabricks of the northwest coast,
    and of the Sandwich islands. * * * The innermost tegument is
    a mantle of cloth like the preceding; but furnished with
    large brown feathers, arranged and fastened with great art,
    so as to be capable of guarding the living wearer from wet
    and cold. The plumage is distinct and entire, and the whole
    bears a near similitude to the feathery cloaks now worn by
    the nations of the northwestern coast of America.[53]

The Bureau of Ethnology had the good fortune to secure recently a number
of representative pieces of burial fabrics of the classes mentioned in
the preceding extracts, and somewhat detailed descriptions of these will
sufficiently illustrate the art as practiced by the early inhabitants of
the middle portions of the country.

The relics which have come into the possession of the Bureau were
obtained in 1885 by Mr. A. J. McGill from a rock shelter on "Clifty" or
Cliff Creek, Morgan county, Tennessee. Mr. J. W. Emmert, through whom
they were procured, reports that they were found in a grave 3½ feet
below the surface and in earth strongly charged with niter and perhaps
other preservative salts. The more pliable cloths, together with skeins
of vegetal fiber, a dog's skull, some bone tools, and portions of human
bones and hair, were rolled up in a large split-cane mat. The grave was
situated about as shown in the accompanying section (figure 4). A shelf
some 20 feet in width, with depressed floor, occurs about midway between
the creek bed and the slightly overhanging ledge above, the whole height
being estimated at 300 feet.


The mat, a very excellent piece of work, is 6 feet 6 inches by 3 feet 4
inches. By reference to plate II it will be seen that it is neatly and
artistically made and quite well preserved. The strands are from
one-third to three-sixteenths of an inch in width and are even on the
edges and smoothly dressed on the back. The hard, glistening outer
surface of the cane is light in color and the dressed surface is dark
naturally or artificially, and the weaving is so managed that a tasteful
border and a checkered effect are produced by alternately exposing the
light and dark sides. This piece probably very fairly represents the
split-cane work of the whole cane-producing region. A similar piece of
work from the gulf coast is illustrated in figure 12.

[Illustration: FIG. 4.--Section of cliff showing position of grave

Inclosed with the mat were three pieces of fabric of especial interest,
all pertaining, no doubt, to the costume of the person buried. The piece
of cloth shown in plate III probably served as a mantle or skirt and is
46 inches long by 24 wide. It is of coarse, pliable, yellowish-gray
stuff, woven in the twined style so common all over America. The fiber
was doubtless derived from the native hemp, and the strands are neatly
twisted and about the size of average wrapping cord. The warp strands,
24 inches in length, extend across the piece; and on the left margin, as
seen in the illustration, they are looped for the passage of a gathering
string, while on the left they have been cut to form a short fringe. The
opposing series (the woof strands) have been passed through with the
length of the cloth in pairs, which are twisted half around at each
intersection, inclosing the web strands in alternating pairs as shown in
detail in figure 5. These twined strands are placed three-eights of an
inch apart, the web being so close that the fabric is but slightly open.
The twined strands are carried back and forth in groups of four as shown
at the ends in the plate, and are knotted as illustrated in the figure.

A piece of fabric of much interest is presented in plate IV. It may be
an unfinished garment of the class shown in the preceding illustration,
but it is more likely a complete skirt, the narrow woven band with its
gathering string serving as a belt and the long fringe being the skirt.
The length at the gathered edge is 34 inches, and the pendant length is
20 inches. The material and the weaving are the same as in the piece of
cloth already described, although the work is somewhat coarser. A
detailed study of the border is given in figure 6, the vertical series
of threads being pulled apart to show more distinctly the manner of

[Illustration: FIG. 5.--Portion of mantle showing manner of weaving.]

[Illustration: FIG. 6.--Analysis of the weaving of fringed skirt. Threads
natural size.]

The two pieces just described would seem to correspond pretty closely
with the garments formerly worn by women and girls of the lower
Mississippi country, as illustrated by Du Pratz in a plate facing page
310, volume II, of his Histoire de la Louisiane. His plate is reproduced
in figure 7. The following are translations of his descriptions of the
garments delineated:

    The women in warm weather have only a half ell of limbourg,
    with which they are covered; they fold this cloth around the
    body and are well clothed from the waist to the knees; when
    they have no limbourg they use in the same way a deer

    When the girls reach the age of eight or nine years they are
    clothed from the waist to the ankles with a fringe of threads
    of mulberry bark, fastened to a band


    which is attached below the abdomen; there is also another
    band above the abdomen which meets the first at the back;
    between the two the body is covered in front by a network
    which is held there by the bands, and at the back there are
    merely two large cords, each having a tassel.[55]

[Illustration: FIG. 7.--Former costumes of woman and girl in Louisiana
(after Du Pratz).]

Of equal interest to the preceding is the badly frayed bag shown in
plate V. It is 20 inches in length and 13 inches in depth. The style of
weaving is the same as that of the two preceding examples; a peculiar
open effect is produced by the rotting out of certain strands of dark
color, which were arranged in pairs alternating with eight lighter
threads. The construction of the border or rim of this bag is quite
remarkable. As shown in figure 8, the upper ends of the vertical

strands are gathered in slightly twisted groups of four and carried up
free for about two inches, when they are brought together and plaited
with remarkable neatness into a string border. As if to convey to the
curious investigator of modern times a complete knowledge of their
weavers' art, the friends of the dead deposited with the body not only
the fabrics worn during life but a number of skeins of the fiber from
which the fabrics were probably made. This fiber has been identified as
that of the _Cannabis sativa_, or wild hemp. Two of the skeins are shown
in plate V.

The presence of these unworked materials makes it probable that the
individual burned was a female, for the distaff and the loom have been
and are universal emblems of the practical enslavement of that sex.

[Illustration: FIG. 8.--Border of bag.]

A small but very instructive group of burial fabrics is preserved in the
National Museum. These specimens were found with a desiccated body in
1877 in a cave 8 miles from Mammoth cave, Kentucky. They consist of a
number of bags and other articles woven in the usual styles of bast and
hemp. Nearly all of the articles are worn or fragmentary, but the fiber
is wonderfully preserved and the original colors are as fresh as if the
burial had taken place but yesterday. There are three wide-mouthed,
shallow bags, resembling the one from Tennessee illustrated in plate V.
The largest is 34 inches long when closed, and 15 inches deep. Both web
and woof are of bast. There is a border of open work bound by a plaited
band as seen in figure 8, and the manner of weaving is identical with
that shown in that figure. The second bag is 22 inches long and 16 deep.
The web is of bast, the woof of hemp. The smaller specimen is 14 by 9
inches and is made exclusively of hemp, and is thus much more pliable
than the others. The small remnant of a larger bag shows a web of heavy,
plaited bast strands resembling the specimen impressed on pottery and
shown in _a_, plate IX. Besides these pieces there is a bit of heavy,
compactly woven stuff, resembling the broad part of a sling, which shows
traces of a geometric pattern, and a piece of flattish rope 12 feet long
and 12 inches broad plaited very neatly of hempen twine.

Among a number of cave relics from Kentucky donated to the Museum by Mr.
Francis Klett, are some textile articles. Among these is a sandal or
moccasin woven or plaited very neatly of bast. It is shown in figure 9.
Prof. F. W. Putnam and other explorers of these caves have obtained
numerous textile articles of interest.



That the well-preserved fabrics just illustrated represent fairly the
textile work of the mound-builders is practically demonstrated by the
evidence furnished by the mounds themselves. From hundreds of sources
come the same story; and it is not necessary here to enter into any
elaborate discussion of the subject or to multiply illustrations. I
present in plates VI and VII specimens of mound fabrics which, since
they were burned with the dead, undoubtedly formed part of the clothing
of the living or were wrappings of articles deposited with the bodies.
These coarse cloths may be considered as fairly representing the weaving
of the mound-builders. There are among them some finer examples of
weaving than those obtained from the caves and shelters of Tennessee and
Kentucky, but there is nothing specifically different in material or
methods of combination, and there is nothing whatever to suggest a
higher stage of culture than that of the historic Indian.

[Illustration: FIG. 9.--Sandal or moccasin from a Kentucky cave.]

The fiber is quite fine and is more probably of hemp than of the bark of
trees. The strands are generally well twisted and even, the twist being
in most cases to the right, or as if twisted on the thigh with a
downward movement of the right-hand, the thread being held in the left.
As in the case of cave fabrics as well as the work of the modern peoples
of the region, the weaving is nearly all in the twined style, of which
there are two varieties; one in which each strand of the web is in turn
inclosed simply by the woof twisted in pairs, and the other in which
alternate pairs of the web strands are inclosed by the twined pairs of
the woof. Cloths woven in the first method are often quite close, as the
woof threads are readily pressed or pounded down on one another entirely
hiding the web strands, giving a fabric of much compactness and
strength. The second variety is usually somewhat open and net-like, and
very often the pairs of twined woof strands are placed far apart, as
shown in several of the illustrations given in this paper. The finest
mesh observed is in the first of these styles, and includes about twenty
intersections to the inch.

From the Ohio mounds also there are examples of plain as well as of
diagonal interlacing. In appearance the cloth is much the same as that
done in the twined style. In a few cases a border or selvage of very
simple construction is seen. A looped margin for the passage of a
gathering cord is common.

In plate VI a number of bits of charred cloth are shown; being quite
black the camera fails to give them with clearness, but the drawings
presented in plate VII serve to make clear all details of the strands
and their combination. The charring has taken place in cremating the
dead, in the burning of offerings or through accidental subjection to
heat. In some cases very considerable portions of the cloth are found,
but it is usually in a very fragile state and little has been preserved.

Specimens preserved in this way are obtained from a large area,
including the Ohio and a large portion of the Mississippi valleys.


The preservation of woven textures through association in burials with
implements or other articles of copper is of common occurrence. Our
museums contain many examples of copper celts retaining on their
surfaces portions of cloth so well preserved that the fibers retain much
of their original strength as well as color. In plate VIII three
examples are shown from a mound near Davenport, Iowa, and a fourth from
a mound near Savannah, Georgia. The fabrics on _a_ and _b_ are of the
twined style and, although occurring 800 miles apart, are identical in
every respect. The cloth on _c_ is very closely woven and has the
appearance of simple interlacing. The finest piece of work that has come
to my notice is a bit of cloth from a mound in Pike county, Ohio. It has
from thirty-five to forty strands to the inch, and looks much like
coarse twilled goods. It is woven in the twined style, however, and is
therefore of native origin. It was preserved by contact with a large
number of copper beads, four of which are shown in the cut, figure 10.

[Illustration: FIG. 10.--Fine, closely woven cloth preserved by contact
with copper beads.]

Traces of basketry are rarely preserved either by charring or by contact
with copper. Matting is occasionally preserved in these ways. Figure 11
illustrates a piece of rush matting found fixed to the surface of a bit
of copper in a mound near Augusta, Georgia.


The weaving of the hair of many species of quadrupeds, the buffalo, the
opossum, the rabbit, etc., is noted by a number of authors, and a few
specimens of haircloth have been recovered from mounds. Mr. Henry R.
Howland found in a mound near Alton, Illinois, two varieties of cloth
preserved by contact with a copper ornament representing a
turtle-shell; they are described as follows:

    Closely fitting over the outer surface of the copper shell
    is, first, a woven cloth of a vegetable fibre, similar in its
    general character to the outer matting above described, but
    of a stronger and better preserved fibre, apparently more
    like that which forms the woven coating of the Davenport
    axes. This is covered in turn with a softer, finer fabric,
    now of a dark-brown color, formed of twisted strands, laid or
    matted closely together, though apparently not woven. The
    material of which these strands are formed proves, under
    microscopic examination, to be animal hair.[56]

[Illustration: FIG. 11.--Small portion of rush matting preserved by
contact with copper.]

An illustration of ancient split cane matting is presented in figure 12.
The specimen was obtained from Petite Anse island, near Vermilion bay,
southern coast of Louisiana, and a photograph was presented to the
Smithsonian Institution in 1866, by J. F. Cleu. The following
description, as given by Prof. Joseph Henry, appears on the label
attached to the specimen:

    This fragment of matting was found near the surface of the
    salt, and about 2 feet above it were remains of tusks and
    bones of a fossil elephant. The peculiar interest in regard
    to the specimen is in its occurrence in situ 2 feet below the
    elephant remains, and about 14 feet below the surface of the
    soil, thus showing the existence of mart on the island prior
    to the deposit in the soil of the fossil elephant. The
    material consists of the outer bark of the common southern
    cane (_Arundinaria macrosperma_), and has been preserved for
    so long a period both by its silicious character and the
    strongly saline condition of the soil.


It was a common practice among the aborigines to employ woven fabrics in
the construction and ornamentation of earthenware. Impressions were thus
left on the clay, and by baking these were rendered as lasting as if
engraved on stone.

From no other source do we obtain so wide a range of fabrics. The
fabric-marked vases and sherds are obtained from mounds, graves, and
village sites all over the country. There is not a state within the
Mississippi or Atlantic drainage that does not furnish some example of
the preservation of native fabric impressions on earthenware. The
perfection with which every character of these textures is preserved is
well shown in a number of the figures here introduced.

A somewhat extended study of this subject was published in the Third
Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, and illustrations of nearly
all the styles of weaving were given. As indicated by subsequent
investigations, a number of slight inaccuracies of analysis and drawing
occur in that paper, but they are of such minor importance that detailed
correction is unnecessary.

[Illustration: FIG. 12.--Split-cane matting from Petite Anse island,

It would seem that imprints of cloth woven in the plain interlaced style
appear to be quite rare, although it is difficult, from the impressions
on clay, to distinguish this from other forms when the threads are
closely impacted. In somewhat rare cases the interlacing is so arranged
and alternated as to give diagonal effects as in a specimen shown in
figure 13. These effects are peculiar to the interlaced fabrics, not
being produced in twined or netted work.

It has been supposed that vessels of clay were often modeled in baskets,
and that the native earthenware preserved numerous impressions of
baskets. On closer analysis these impressions turn out to be the
application of pliable cloths, or of cords singly or in groups, or of
stamps covered with textiles or having geometric textile-like patterns
engraved on them. I can not recall a single example from eastern United
States in which it is entirely clear that the clay vessel was modeled in
a basket. The impressions of basket work occasionally seen are only
partial, having been applied after the vessel was practically finished.


I present in figure 13, a small earthen vessel from a mound in North
Carolina, the entire exterior surface of which is marked with a fabric,
a pliable cloth or bag woven in the twined styled. The impressions are
not the result of a single application of the texture, but consist of
several disconnected imprintings as if the hand or a paddle covered with
cloth had been used in handling the vessel or in imparting a desired
finish to the surface.

[Illustration: FIG. 13.--Fabric-marked vase from a mound in North

Specimens of diagonal fabrics, restored from potsherds, are given in
figures 14 and 15. The first is a very neatly woven diagonal from the
ancient pottery of Polk county, Tennessee. Two series of cords have been
interwoven at right angles to each other, but so arranged as to produce
the diagonal effect. One series of the cords is fine and well twisted,
the other coarser and very slightly twisted. The second is a piece of
matting restored from the impression on a small piece of pottery
collected in Alabama. It was probably made of rushes or heavy blades of

[Illustration: FIG. 14.--Diagonal fabric, ancient pottery of Tennessee.]

Twined weaving prevails in the fabrics impressed on pottery as in those
from all other aboriginal sources. An example of the simplest form,
obtained from a small fragment of pottery found in Polk county,
Tennessee, is shown in figure 16. Two series of threads are interwoven
at right angles, the warp being arranged in pairs and the woof singly.

[Illustration: FIG. 15.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Alabama.]

At each intersection the pairs of warp threads are twisted half around
upon themselves, inclosing the woof threads and holding them quite
firmly, so that the open net-like effect is well preserved even under
strain or in long continued use. There are many varieties of this form
of fabric resulting from differences in size and spacing of the threads.
These differences are well brought out in the succeeding figures.

[Illustration: FIG. 16.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

[Illustration: FIG. 17.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

In figure 17 we have a characteristic example of this fabric, obtained
from a fragment of pottery from a mound at Sevierville, Tennessee.


The impression is quite perfect. The cords are somewhat uneven, and seem
to have been only moderately well twisted. They were probably made of
hemp fiber. It will be observed that the threads of the web are placed
at regular intervals, while those of the woof are irregularly placed. It
may be noticed that in one case the woof has not been doubled, the
single thread having, as a consequence, exactly the same relation to the
opposing series as corresponding threads in simple interlacing. The
impression, of which this is only a part, indicates that the cloth used
in shaping the vessel was considerably distorted when applied to the
soft clay.

[Illustration: FIG. 18.--Twined fabric from ancient salt vessel,

[Illustration: FIG. 19.--Twined fabric from ancient salt vessel,

Nowhere else are found so many fine impressions of fabrics on clay
vessels as in the ancient salt-making localities of the Mississippi
valley. The huge bowls or vats used by the primitive salt-maker have
generally been modeled in coarse, open fabrics, or have had cloths
impressed upon them for ornament. In figures 18 and 19 fine examples of
these impressions are given. The latter engraving illustrates a specimen
in which every detail is perfectly preserved. Only a small portion of
the original is shown in the cut. It is noticeable that the cords are
quite heavy and well twisted, although the spacing is somewhat

[Illustration: FIG. 20.--Twined fabric from a piece of clay, Arkansas.]

[Illustration: FIG. 21.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

The example given in figure 20, impressed on a fragment of clay from
Arkansas, has an ornamental border produced by looping the cords of the
web, which seem to have been five in number, each one passing over four
others before recrossing the frame. A specimen showing a somewhat
different border is given in figure 21.

[Illustration: FIG. 22.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Missouri.]

The interesting specimen illustrated in figure 22 was obtained from a
small fragment of pottery found in Ripley county, Missouri. The
combination of the two series of strands clearly indicates the type of
fabric, the twisted cords of the woof being placed very far apart. The
warp is of braid formed by plaiting strands of untwisted fiber, probably
bast. All the details are shown in the most satisfactory manner in the
clay cast.

[Illustration: FIG. 23.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Carter
county, Tennessee.]

In figure 23 we have a similar fabric closely woven or impacted. I have
made the drawing to show fillets of fiber appearing at the ends; these
do not appear in the impression. It is highly probable, however, that
these fillets are plaited bands, as in the preceding example. They are
wide and flat, giving somewhat the effect of basket-work of splints or

[Illustration: FIG. 24.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

[Illustration: FIG. 25.--Twined fabric from ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

Another variety of the twined fabrics, distinguished by peculiarities in
the combinations of the threads, is illustrated in figures 24 and 25.
The threads of the warp are arranged in pairs as in the specimens
already described, but are twisted in such a way as to inclose two of
the opposing series instead of one, each succeeding pair of warp threads
taking up alternate pairs of the woof threads. Figure 25 is from a small
piece of pottery exhumed from a mound on Fain island, Jefferson county,
Tennessee. The threads of the woof are quite close together, those of
the web being far apart.

[Illustration: FIG. 26.--Twined fabric, with patterns, Ohio valley.]

[Illustration: FIG. 27.--Net from ancient pottery, District of

That the native love of decoration had a marked influence on the
weavers' art in its simplest and rudest as well as higher forms is well
evinced even in the meager vestiges brought to light by researches in
the mounds. Decorative borders and fanciful combinations of strands are
shown in some of the preceding cuts, and figure 26, copied from a
pottery fragment obtained in the Ohio valley, indicates a more ambitious
attempt at embellishment. The fabric was evidently of ornate design and
the execution excellent.


Plate IX is intended to convey a clear notion of the nature and
appearance of fabric-marked pottery and of the manner of securing
positive impressions in clay. Three bits of pottery from Illinois are
placed at the left, and the three casts appear at the right. All
illustrate open fabrics of comparatively simple pattern done in the
characteristic twined style.

[Illustration: FIG. 28.--Net from ancient pottery, North Carolina.]

Nets were in use by the Indians of Florida and Virginia at the time of
the discovery, and the ancient pottery of the Atlantic states has
preserved impressions of innumerable specimens. The piece shown in
figure 27 is from a small fragment of pottery picked up in the District
of Columbia. The impression is so perfect that the twist of the cord and
the form of the knot may be seen with ease. Most of the examples from
this locality are of much finer cord and have a less open mesh than the
specimen illustrated. The net illustrated in figure 28 is from a
specimen of North Carolina pottery. Netting of this class was still in
use among the natives of the Chesapeake region when the English colonies
were founded.

The lesson of the prehistoric textile art of eastern United States is
simple and easily read, and goes far to round out the story of native
occupation and culture. Colonial records furnish definite knowledge of
the woven fabrics and weaving of the nations first encountered by the
whites. Graves, mounds, and caves give us an insight into the
pre-Columbian status of the art, and evidence furnished by associated
industries which happen to echo features of the textile art contribute
to our information. Charred cloths from the great mounds are identical
in material, combination of parts, and texture with the fabrics of the
simple savage. Cloths preserved by contact with copper implements and
ornaments characteristic of the art of the builders of the mounds do not
differ in any way from the humble work of the historic peoples. All tell
the same story of a simple, primitive culture, hardly advanced beyond
the grade separating the savage from the barbarous condition.

   [51] Nat. and Abor. Hist, of Tenn., John Haywood. Nashville,
   1823, pp. 163-165.

   [52] Ibid., p. 62.

   [53] Trans. and Coll. Amer. Antiq. Soc. Worcester, 1820, vol.
   1, pp. 318, 319.
   [54] Histoire de la Louisiane. Du Pratz. Paris, 1758, vol. II,
   p. 191.

   [55] Histoire de la Louisiane, Du Pratz. Paris, 1758, vol. II,
   p. 193.

   [56] Recent Archæological Discoveries in the American Bottom.
   Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, March 2,
   1877, p. 208.


ADAIR, JAMES, on Cherokee basketry 16
  weaving 23
  Indian method of spinning 23
ALABAMA, Fabric-impressed pottery from 39
APOGYNUM, Indian use of, in weaving 23
ARKANSAS, Fabric-impressed pottery from 42
ART, textile, Memoir on 3-45

BAGS, Woven, described 33, 34
BARK clothing 17
  fiber used in weaving 23, 24, 25
  Mulberry, used for fringe 32
  used in embroidery designs 28
  net making 27
  spinning 22
BARTRAM, W., on council houses of mats 19
  on sieve of Georgia Indians 17
BASKETRY discussed 15
  Earthenware derived from 11
  Lack of pottery modeled from 38
  rarely preserved by charring 36
BEADS used in embroidery 28
BILOXI, Mortuary customs of the 21
BRACKINRIDGE, H. M. on Tennessee mortuary customs 21
BRIDGES of wattle work 13
BUTEL-DUMONT, G. M., on Louisiana indian embroidery 28
  featherwork 28
  mortuary mats 21
  sieves 17
  Mobilian wattled biers 14
  Natchez dwellings 14
  rafts of poles and canes 15

CAGES of wattle work 13
CALIFORNIA INDIANS, Stone chipping by 41
CANES used for matting 18
CAROLINA INDIANS, Textile fabrics of 14, 16
CAVES, Fabrics preserved in 29
CHARRING, Fabrics preserved by 35
CHASE,--, on ceremonial knives 16
CHEROKEE, Basketry of the 16
  Weaving by the 23
CHOCTAW, Woven pouches and blankets of the 24
CLAWS of birds used with embroidery 28
CLEU, J. F., Split cane matting found by 37
CLOTH. Methods of manufacture of 22
CONTI, a Georgia Indian food 17
COPPER as a fabric preservative 36
  used in embroidery 28
CORDAGE, Primitive manufacture of 21
COSTUMES of Louisiana indian women 32, 33
COTTON shawls of lower Mississippi 25
CRADLES, Textile, described 18
CRESSON, H. T., Remains of fish-weirs found by 15

DELAWARE, Remains of weirs in 15
DE SOTO, H., Expedition of 25
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Fabric-impressed pottery from 44, 45
DU PRATZ, LE P., on Louisiana basketry 16
  cane rafts 15
  clothing 22, 25, 32, 33
  dyes 20
  embroidery 28
  feather work 27
  nets 27
  sieves 17
  textile cradles 18
DWELLINGS of wattle work 13
DYEING of basketry by the Cherokee 16
  embroidery materials 28
DYES, use of, by Louisiana Indians 20

ELVAS, KNIGHT OF, on Georgia indian blankets 24
ELVAS, KNIGHT OF on Georgia indian costume 22
EMBROIDERY, Lack of remains of 12
  of southern Indians 28
EMMEET, J. W., mortuary fabrics procured by 30

FANS of turkey feathers 17
FEATHER blankets of the Choctaw 24
  weaving among Louisiana Indians 25
  work described 27
  Lack of remains of 12
FISH-WEIRS of Virginia indians 14
  of wattle work 13
FLORIDA indians, Nets made and used by 45
FOSSIL fabrics discussed 28

GEORGIA, Fabrics from 36
  indians, Textile fabrics of 17
  Remains of matting from 36
GRASSES employed in spinning 22

HAIR used in weaving 22, 24, 25, 28, 36
HAKLUYT, RICHARD, on Indian sieves 17
HARIOT, THOMAS, on indian costume 22
  mat houses 18
  indian fish-weirs 14
  method of spinning 23
HAYWOOD, JOHN, Mortuary fabrics described by 17, 29
HEMP, Indian, in spinning and weaving 22, 23, 24, 25, 34
HENRY, JOSEPH, Description of cane matting by 37
HOLMES, W. H., Memoir by, on prehistoric textile art 3-45
  on Peruvian feather-work 27
HOWLAND, H. R., Copper-preserved cloth found by 37
HUNTER, J. D., on Osage weaving 25

ILLINOIS, Copper-preserved cloth from 37
  Fabric-impressed pottery from 41, 45
IOWA, Fabrics from 36
IROQUOIS, Nets of 26

JOUTEL,--, on indian use of mats 20

KALM, PETER, on indian weaving 22
KLETT, F., Description of textiles found by 34

LAFITAU, J. E., Illustration by, of council mats 19
  on Pamunki initiatory shelters 14
LAWSON, JOHN, on Carolina baskets 16
  mortuary wrappings 26
  Santee feather-work 27
  wattled "hurdles" 14
LOUISIANA, Split-cane matting from 37, 38
LYE, Use of, in net-making 26

MCGiLL, A. J., Mortuary fabrics procured by 30
MATS, cane, Burial accompaniments found in 30
  of Carolina indians 16
  flags and rushes 26
MATTING discussed 18
  preserved by charring 36
  of split cane from Louisiana 37, 38
MISSOURI, fabric-impressed pottery from 42
MITCHELL, S. L., Mortuary fabrics described by 30
MOBILIANS, Wattled biers of the 14
MORTUARY customs of the Louisiana tribes 21
  fabrics preserved in caves 29, 30
  wrappings 26
MOUND-BUILDERS, Character of pottery of 12
MOUSE-WOOD, Indian use of, in weaving 23
MULBERRY BARK used in weaving 24, 25

NATCHEZ dwellings of wattle-work 14
NETS of Florida and Virginia indians 45
  Manufacture and use of 26
NETTLES employed in spinning 22
NORTH CAROLINA, Fabric-impressed pottery from 38, 45

OHIO, Fabric from mound in 36
OSAGE INDIANS, Weaving by 25

PAMUNKI initiatory shelters 14
PASKAGULA mortuary customs 21
PEMMENAW, Use of, in weaving 23
PLIABLE fabrics described 21
PORCUPINE skins used in embroidery 28
POTHERIE, B. DE LA, on indian nets 26
  sleeping mats 20
  spinning 23
  weaving 22
  Iroquois ceremonial mats 21
POTTERY, Fabrics impressed on 37
  Use of textiles in manufacture of 11
PRESERVATION of fossil fabrics 28
PUTNAM, F. W., Textile articles found by 35

RAFTS of poles and canes 15
  wattle work 13
REEDS used for matting 18
ROPE, primitive manufacture of 21
RUSHES used for matting 18

SANDAL, woven, described and figured 34, 35
SANTEE feather-work 27
SAUTEURS, Use of nets by the 26
SHAWLS, Indian, used by Spaniards as sails 25
SHELTERS, Fabrics preserved in 29
SHIELDS of Virginia Indians 18
SIEVES of basketry 17
SINEW, Cloth of 22
SMITH, JOHN, on indian costume 22
  method of spinning 23
  shields 18
  Virginia indian embroidery 28
  feather work 27
  fish-weirs 14
SMITH, JOHN, on Virginia indian sieves 17
  wattled houses 13
SPINDLE WHORLS as evidence of textile manufacture 11
SPINNING, Development of 21
STRAINERS of basketry 17
SWEAT-HOUSES made of mats 19

TARGETS, Woven 18
TENNESSEE, Fabric-impressed pottery from 39, 40, 42, 43, 44
THOMAS, CYRUS, Mound exploration by 9
THREAD, primitive, Manufacture of 21
TURQUOIS among indians of lower Mississippi 25
TUSKARORA, Basketry of the 16

VIRGINIA indian nets 45

WATTLE WORK defined and described 13
WEAVING, Development of 21
  Early descriptions of 22

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prehistoric Textile Art of Eastern United States - Thirteenth Annual Report of the Beaurau of American - Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution - 1891-1892, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1896 - pages 3-46" ***

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