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Title: Prehistoric Textile Fabrics Of The United States, Derived From Impressions On Pottery - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-82, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 393-425
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 Fabrics Of The United States, Derived From Impressions On Pottery - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-82, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 393-425" ***

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1st-hand-history.org, and the Online Distributed
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Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF/Gallica) at



                     OF THE

                 UNITED STATES,


               WILLIAM H. HOLMES.

       *       *       *       *       *
           *       *       *       *
       *       *       *       *       *


  Introductory                        397
  First Group                         401
  Second Group                        404
  Third Group                         413
  Fourth Group                        416
  Fifth Group                         417
  Sixth Group                         418
  Miscellaneous                       420


[Transcriber's Note:
In the original text, the position of illustrations was determined by
available page space. For this e-text, each figure caption has been
placed directly _after_ the paragraph describing the figure. Figure 88,
which shared a caption with Figure 89, has been shifted down to join
Figure 90. The captions are identical except for number.]

Plate XXXIX.--Pottery, with impressions of textile fabrics           397

Fig. 60.--Cord-marked vessel, Great Britain                          399
     61.--Cord and fabric marked vessel, Pennsylvania                400
     62.--Combination of threads in coffee sacking                   401
     63.--Section of same                                            401
     64.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of New York                402
     65.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of District of Columbia    402
     66.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Arizona                 402
     67.--Fabric from the caves of Kentucky                          403
     68.--Fabric from the Swiss Lake Dwellings                       403
     69.--Fabric from a mound in Ohio                                403
     70.--Fabric from a mound in Ohio                                403
     71.--Section of the same                                        403
     72.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               405
     73.--Section of same                                            405
     74.--Diagram showing method of weaving                          405
     75.--Device for making the twist                                406
     76.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               406
     77.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Georgia                 407
     78.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               407
     79.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               408
     80.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               408
     81.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Arkansas                408
     82.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Illinois                409
     83.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Illinois                410
     84.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Missouri                410
     85.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               410
     86.--Fabric from a copper celt, Iowa                            411
     87.--Fabric from Vancouver's Island                             412
     88.--Fabric from the Lake Dwellings of Switzerland              412
     89.--Fabric from the Lake Dwellings of Switzerland              412
     90.--Fabric from the Lake Dwellings of Switzerland              413
     91.--Section of third form of fabric                            414
     92.--Device for weaving same                                    414
     93.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               414
     94.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               414
     95.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               414
     96.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               415
     97.--Fabric from the Northwest coast                            415
     98.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Tennessee               416
     99.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Alabama                 416
    100.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Iowa                    417
    101.--Plaiting of an ancient sandal                              417
    102.--Braiding done by the Lake Dwellers                         418
    103.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of District of Columbia    419
    104.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of North Carolina          419
    105.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of North Carolina          420
    106.--Net from the Lake Dwellings                                420
    107.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of New Jersey              421
    108.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of New Jersey              421
    109.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of New Jersey              422
    110.--Fabric from the ancient pottery of Pennsylvania            422
    111.--Impression on the ancient pottery of Ohio                  423
    112.--Impression on the ancient pottery of New Jersey            423
    113.--Impression on the ancient pottery of Alabama               423
    114.--Impression on the ancient pottery of Maryland              424
    115.--Impression on the ancient pottery of Alabama               425


  1. POTSHERD.     2. CLAY CAST.
  3. POTSHERD.     4. CLAY CAST.
  5. POTSHERD.     6. CLAY CAST.

  A. Hoen & Co. Litho[*illegible*], Baltimore.




                By W. H. Holmes.


It is not my intention in this paper to make an exhaustive study of the
art of weaving as practiced by the ancient peoples of this country. To
do this would necessitate a very extended study of the materials used
and of the methods of preparing them, as well as of the arts of spinning
and weaving practiced by primitive peoples generally. This would be a
very wide field, and one which I have no need of entering. I may state
here, however, that the materials used by savages in weaving their
simple fabrics consist generally of the fibre of bark, flax, hemp,
nettles, and grasses, which is spun into thread of various sizes; or of
splints of wood, twigs, roots, vines, porcupine quills, feathers, and a
variety of animal tissues, either plaited or used in an untwisted state.
The articles produced are mats, baskets, nets, bags, plain cloths, and
entire garments, such as capes, hats, belts, and sandals.

It has been noticed by a few authors that twisted or plaited cords,
as well as a considerable variety of woven fabrics, have been used
by primitive tribes in the manufacture and ornamentation of pottery.
Impressions of these made in the soft clay are frequently preserved on
very ancient ware, the original fabrics having long since crumbled to
dust. It is to these that I propose calling attention, their restoration
having been successfully accomplished in many hundreds of cases by
taking impressions in clay from the ancient pottery.

The perfect manner in which the fabric in all its details of plaiting,
netting, and weaving can be brought out is a matter of astonishment; the
cloth itself could hardly make all the particulars of its construction
more manifest.

The examples presented in the accompanying plate will be very
instructive, as the fragment of pottery is given on the left, with its
rather obscure intaglio impressions, and the clay cast on the right with
the cords of the fabric in high relief. The great body of illustrations
have been made in pen directly from the clay impressions, and, although
details are more distinctly shown than in the specimens themselves,
I believe that nothing is presented that cannot with ease be seen in the
originals. Alongside of these restorations I have placed illustrations
of fabrics from other primitive sources.

There appears to be a pretty general impression that baskets of the
ordinary rigid character have been extensively used by our ancient
peoples in the manufacture of pottery to build the vessel in or upon;
but my investigations tend to show that such is not the case, and
that nets or sacks of pliable materials have been almost exclusively
employed. These have been applied to the surface of the vessel,
sometimes covering the exterior entirely, and at others only the body
or a part of the body. The interior surface is sometimes partially
decorated in the same manner.

The nets or other fabrics used have generally been removed before the
vessel was burned or even dried. Professor Wyman, in speaking casually
of the cord-marked pottery of Tennessee, says:

  "It seems incredible that even an Indian would be so prodigal of time
  and labor as to make the necessary quantity of well-twisted cord or
  thread, and weave it into shape for the mere purpose of serving as a
  mold which must be destroyed in making a single copy."

This remark is, however, based upon a false assumption. The fact that
the net or fabric has generally been removed while the clay was still
soft being susceptible of easy proof. I have observed in many cases
that handles and ornaments have been added, and that impressed and
incised designs have been made in the soft clay _after_ the removal
of the woven fabric; besides this there would be no need of the support
of a net after the vessel had been fully finished and slightly hardened.
Furthermore, I have no doubt that these _textilia_ were employed as
much for the purpose of enhancing the appearance of the vessel as for
supporting it during the process of construction. I have observed, in
relation to this point, that in a number of cases, notably the great
salt vessels of Saline River, Illinois, the fabric has been applied
after the vessel was finished. I arrive at this conclusion from having
noticed that the loose threads of the net-like cover sag or festoon
toward the rim as if applied to the inverted vessel, Fig. 82. If the net
had been used to suspend the vessel while building, the threads would
necessarily have hung in the opposite direction.

In support of the idea that ornament was a leading consideration in the
employment of these coarse fabrics, we have the well-known fact that
simple cord-markings, arranged to form patterns, have been employed
by many peoples for embellishment alone. This was a common practice
of the ancient inhabitants of Great Britain, as shown by Jewett. The
accompanying cut (Fig. 60) is copied from his work.[1]

  [Illustration: Fig. 60.--Ancient British vase with cord

    [Footnote 1: Jewett, Llewellynn: Grave mounds and their contents,
    p. 92.]

It is a remarkable fact that very few entire cord-marked vessels have
been obtained in this country, although fragments of such are very

In Fig. 61 we have an ancient vase from Pennsylvania. It presents a
combination of net or basket markings and of separate cord-markings.
The regularity of the impressions upon the globular body indicates
almost unbroken contact with the interior surface of the woven vessel.
The neck and rim have apparently received finishing touches by
separately impressing cords or narrow bands of some woven fabric.

  [Illustration: Fig. 61.--Ancient fabric marked vessel, Pennsylvania.]

Many examples show very irregular markings such as might have been made
by rolling the plastic vessel irregularly upon a woven surface, or by
molding it in an improvised sack made by tying up the margins of a piece
of cloth.

It is necessary to distinguish carefully the cord and fabric markings
from the stamped designs so common in southern pottery, as well as
from the incised designs, some of which imitate fabric markings very

I shall present at once a selection from the numerous examples of the
fabrics restored. For convenience of study I have arranged them in six
groups, some miscellaneous examples being added in a seventh group.
For comparison, a number of illustrations of both ancient and modern
textiles are presented.

In regard to methods of manufacture but little need be said. The
appliances used have been extremely simple, the work in a vast majority
of cases having been done by hand. It is probable that in many instances
a simple frame has been used, the threads of the web or warp being
fixed at one end and those of the woof being carried through them by
the fingers or by a simple needle or shuttle. A loom with a device for
carrying the alternate threads of the warp back and forth may have been
used, but that form of fabric in which the threads are twisted in pairs
at each crossing of the woof could only have been made by hand.

The probable methods will be dwelt upon more in detail as the groups
are presented. In verifying the various methods of fabrication I have
been greatly assisted by Miss Kate C. Osgood, who has successfully
reproduced, in cotton cord, all the varieties discovered, all the
mechanism necessary being a number of pins set in a drawing board or
frame, in the form of three sides of a rectangle, the warp being fixed
at one end only and the woof passing back and forth between the lateral
rows of pins, as shown in Fig. 74.

                  FIRST GROUP.

Fig. 62 illustrates a small fragment of an ordinary coffee sack which I
take as a type of the first group. It is a loosely woven fabric of the
simplest construction; the two sets of threads being interwoven at right
angles to each other, alternate threads of one series passing over and
under each of the opposing series as shown in the section, Fig. 63.

  [Illustration: Fig. 62.--Type of Group one--portion of a coffee

  [Illustration: Fig. 63.--Section.]

It is a remarkable fact that loosely woven examples of this kind of
cloth are rarely, if ever, found among the impressions upon clay or in
the fabrics themselves where preserved by the salts of copper or by
charring. The reason of this probably is that the combination is such
that when loosely woven the threads would not remain in place under
tension, and the twisted and knotted varieties were consequently

It is possible that many of the very irregular impressions observed, in
which it is so difficult to trace the combinations of the threads, are
of distorted fabrics of this class.

This stuff may be woven by hand in a simple frame, or by any of the
primitive forms of the loom.

In most cases, so far as the impressions upon pottery show, when this
particular combination is employed, the warp is generally very heavy and
the woof comparatively light. This gives a cloth differing greatly from
the type in appearance; and when, as is usually the case, the woof
threads are beaten down tightly, obscuring those of the web, the
resemblance to the type is quite lost.

Examples of this kind of weaving may be obtained from the fictile
remains of nearly all the Atlantic States.

The specimen presented in Fig. 64 was obtained from a small fragment of
ancient pottery from the State of New York.

  [Illustration: Fig. 64.--Fabric impressed upon ancient pottery, New

It is generally quite difficult to determine which set of threads is the
warp and which the woof. In most cases I have preferred to call the more
closely placed threads the woof, as they are readily beaten down by a
baton, whereas it would be difficult to manipulate the warp threads if
so closely placed. In the specimen illustrated, only the tightly woven
threads of the woof appear. The impression is not sufficiently distinct
to show the exact character of the thread, but there are indications
that it has been twisted. The regularity and prominence of the ridges
indicate a strong, tightly drawn warp.

Fig. 65 represents a form of this type of fabric very common in
impressions upon the pottery of the Middle Atlantic States. This
specimen was obtained from a small potsherd picked up near Washington,
D.C. The woof or cross-threads are small and uniform in thickness, and
pass alternately over and under the somewhat rigid fillets of the web.
The apparent rigidity of these fillets may result from the tightening
of the series when the fabric was applied to the plastic surface of the

  [Illustration: Fig. 65.--From a fragment of ancient pottery,
  District of Columbia.]

I present in Fig. 66 the only example of the impression of a woven
fabric found by the writer in two summers' work among the remains of the
ancient Cliff-Dwellers. It was obtained from the banks of the San Juan
River, in southeastern Utah. It is probably the imprint of the interior
surface of a more or less rigid basket, such as are to be seen among
many of the modern tribes of the Southwest. The character of the warp
cannot be determined, as the woof, which has been of moderately heavy
rushes or other untwisted, vegetable fillets, entirely hides it.

  [Illustration: Fig. 66.--From a fragment of ancient Cliff-house

The caves of Kentucky have furnished specimens of ancient weaving of
much interest. One of these, a small fragment of a mat apparently made
from the fiber of bark, or a fibrous rush, is illustrated in Fig. 67.

  [Illustration: Fig. 67.--Fabric from a cave in Kentucky.]

This simple combination of the web and woof has been employed by all
ancient weavers who have left us examples of their work. The specimen
given in Fig. 68 is the work of the ancient Lake-Dwellers of
Switzerland. It is a mat plaited or woven of strips of bast, and was
found at Robenhausen, having been preserved in a charred state.[2]
Keller gives another example of a similar fabric of much finer texture
in Fig. 8, Pl. CXXXVI.

  [Illustration: Fig. 68.--Fabric from Swiss Lake-Dwellings.]

    [Footnote 2: Keller: Lake-Dwellers. Fig. 2, Pl. CXXXIV.]

An illustration of this form of fabric is given by Foster,[3] and
reproduced in Fig. 69.

  [Illustration: Fig. 69.--Cloth from a mound, Ohio.]

    [Footnote 3: Foster: Prehistoric Times.]

In the same place this author presents another form of cloth shown in my
Fig. 70. In Fig. 71 we have a section of this fabric. These cloths, with
a number of other specimens, were taken from a mound on the west side of
the Great Miama River, Butler County, Ohio. The fabric in both samples
appears to be composed of some material allied to hemp. As his remarks
on these specimens, as well as on the general subject, are quite
interesting, I quote them somewhat at length.

  "The separation between the fibre and the wood appears to have been
  as thorough and effectual as at this day by the process of rotting and
  hackling. The thread, though coarse, is uniform in size, and regularly
  spun. Two modes of weaving are recognized: In one, by the alternate
  intersection of the warp and woof, and in the other, the weft is wound
  once around the warp, a process which could not be accomplished except
  by hand. In the illustration the interstices have been enlarged to
  show the method of weaving, but in the original the texture was about
  the same as that in coarse sail-cloth. In some of the Butler County
  specimens there is evidently a fringed border."

  [Illustration: Fig. 70.--Cloth from a mound, Ohio.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 71.--Section.]

In regard to the second specimen described, I would remark that it is a
very unusual form, no such combination of the parts having come to my
notice either in the ancient fabrics themselves or in the impressions on
pottery. In a very closely woven cloth it might be possible to employ
such a combination, each thread of the web being turned once around each
thread of the woof as shown in Fig. 71; but certainly it would work in
a very unsatisfactory manner in open fabrics. I would suggest that this
example may possibly belong to my second group, which, upon the surface,
would have a similar appearance. The combination of this form is shown
in the section, Fig. 73.

                 SECOND GROUP.

It is not impossible, as previously stated, that open fabrics of the
plain type were avoided for the reason that the threads would not remain
in place if subjected to tension. A very ingenious method of fixing the
threads of open work, without resorting to the device of knotting has
been extensively employed in the manufacture of ancient textiles. The
simplest form of cloth in which this combination is used is shown in
Fig. 72. This example, which was obtained from a small fragment of
pottery found in Polk County, Tennessee, may be taken as a type.

  [Illustration: Fig. 72.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 73.--Section.]

Two series of threads are interwoven at right angles, the warp series
being arranged in pairs and the woof singly. 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 mesh
is well preserved even when much strained. Fabrics of this character
have been employed by the ancient potters of a very extended region,
including nearly all the Atlantic States. There are also many varieties
of this form, of fabric resulting from differences in the size and
spacing of the threads. These differences are well brought out in the
series of illustrations that follow.

In regard to the manufacture of this particular fabric, I am unable to
arrive at any very definite conclusion. As demonstrated by Miss Osgood,
it may be knitted by hand, the threads of the warp being fixed at one
end and the woof at both by wrapping about pegs set in a drawing board
or frame, as shown in the diagram, Fig. 74.

  [Illustration: Fig. 74.--Diagram showing the method of weaving
  Form 2.]

The combination is extremely difficult to produce by mechanical means,
and must have been beyond the reach of any primitive loom. I have
prepared a diagram, Fig. 75, which, shows very clearly the arrangement
of threads, and illustrates a possible method of supporting the warp
while the woof is carried across. As each thread of the woof is laid in
place, the threads of the warp can be thrown to the opposite support,
a turn or half twist being made at each exchange. The work could be done
equally well by beginning at the top and working downward. For the sake
of clearness I have drawn but one pair of the warp threads.

  [Illustration: Fig. 75.--Theoretic device for working the twist.]

Fig. 76 illustrates a characteristic example of this class obtained from
a fragment of pottery from the great mound at Sevierville, Tenn.

  [Illustration: Fig. 76.--From fragment of mound pottery, 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
some vegetable fiber. It will be observed that the threads of the woof
are placed at regular intervals, while those of the web are irregularly
placed. It is interesting to notice that in one case the warp has not
been doubled, the single thread having, as a consequence, exactly the
same relation to the opposing series as corresponding threads in the
first form of fabric presented. The impression, of which this is only a
part, indicates that the cloth was considerably distorted when applied
to the soft clay. The slipping of one of the woof threads is well shown
in the upper part of the figure.

The fabric shown in Fig. 77 has been impressed upon an earthen vessel
from Macon, Ga. It has been very well and neatly formed, and all the
details of fiber, twist, and combination can be made out.

  [Illustration: Fig. 77.--From ancient pottery, Georgia.]

The example given in Fig. 78 differs from the preceding in the spacing
and pairing of the warp cords. It was obtained from a fragment of
ancient pottery recently collected at Reel Foot Lake, Tennessee.

  [Illustration: Fig. 78.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

Fig. 79 represents another interesting specimen from the pottery of the
same locality. The border is woven somewhat differently from the body of
the fabric, two threads of the woof being included in each loop of the

  [Illustration: Fig. 79.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

Fig. 80 is from the pottery of the same locality. The threads are much
more closely woven than those already given.

  [Illustration: Fig. 80.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

The next example, Fig. 81, impressed upon a fragment of clay from
Arkansas, has been made of coarse, well-twisted cords. An ornamental
border has been produced by looping the cords of the woof, which seem
to have been five in number, each one passing over four others before
recrossing the warp.

  [Illustration: Fig. 81.--From a piece of clay, Arkansas.]

In no locality are so many fine impressions of textiles upon clay
vessels found as in the ancient salt-making districts of the Mississippi
Valley. The huge bowl or tub-like vessels used by the primitive
salt-makers have very generally been modeled in coarse nets, or
otherwise have had many varieties of netting impressed upon them for

In the accompanying plate (XXXIX) two fine examples of these impressions
are given. They are somewhat more clearly defined than the majority of
those from which the other illustrations are made.

Fig. 82 illustrates a specimen in which every detail is perfectly
preserved. Only a small portion of the original is shown in the cut. The
cords are heavy and well twisted, but the spacing is somewhat irregular.
I observe one interesting fact in regard to this impression. The fabric
has apparently been applied to the inverted vessel, as the loose cords
of the woof which run parallel with the rim droop or hang in festoons
between the cords of the warp as shown in the illustration, which is
here placed, as drawn from the inverted fragment. The inference to be
drawn from this fact is that the fabric was applied to the exterior of
the vessel, after it was completed and inverted, for the purpose of
enhancing its beauty. When we recollect, however, that these vessels
were probably built for service only, with thick walls and rude finish,
we are at a loss to see why so much pains should have been taken in
their embellishment. It seems highly probable that, generally, the
inspiring idea was one of utility, and that the fabric served in some
way as a support to the pliable clay, or that the network of shallow
impressions was supposed to act after the manner of a _dégraissant_
to neutralize the tendency to fracture.

  [Illustration: Fig. 82.--From fragment of a large salt vessel,
  Saline River, Illinois.]

Another example from the same locality is shown in Fig. 83. This is
similar to that shown in the lower figure of Plate XXXIX. It is very
neatly woven of evenly spun and well-twisted thread. The double series
is widely spaced as shown in the drawing.

  [Illustration: Fig. 83.--From a salt vessel, Saline River, Illinois.]

The very interesting specimen illustrated in Fig. 84 was obtained from
a small fragment of pottery found in Fort Ripley County, Missouri. The
combination of the two series of threads or strands clearly indicates
the type of fabric under consideration, the twisted cords of the warp
being placed very far apart. The remarkable feature of this example is
the character of the woof, which seems to be a broad braid formed by
plaiting three strands of untwisted fiber, probably bast. All the
details are shown in the most satisfactory manner in the clay cast.

  [Illustration: Fig. 84.--From ancient pottery, Missouri.]

The open character of the web in this specimen assists very much, in
explaining the structure of tightly-woven examples such as that shown in
Fig. 85, in which the cross cords are so closely placed that the broad
bands of the opposing series are completely hidden.

  [Illustration: Fig. 85.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

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 of rushes. This specimen was obtained in Carter County, Tennessee.

We have a few pieces of this variety of fabric which have been preserved
by contact with the salts of copper. Professor Farquharson describes
an example from a mound on the banks of the Mississippi River, near
the city of Davenport. It had been wrapped about a copper implement
resembling a celt, and was at the time of its recovery in a very perfect
state of preservation. In describing this cloth Mr. Farquharson says
  "the warp is composed of four cords, that is, of _two double and
  twisted_ cords, and the woof of _one_ such doubled and twisted cord
  which passes between the two parts of the warp; the latter being
  twisted at each change, allowing the cords to be brought close
  together so as to cover the woof almost entirely."
His illustration is somewhat erroneous, the artist not having had quite
a clear understanding of the combination of threads. This cloth has a
general resemblance to ordinary coffee-sacking. In Fig. 86 I give an
illustration of this fabric derived from the opposite side of the celt.

  [Illustration: Fig. 86.--Fabric from a copper celt, Iowa.]

Although I am not quite positive, it is my opinion, after having
examined the specimen carefully, that the body of the cloth belongs
to my first group and that the border only is of the second group.
My section and drawing give a clear idea of the construction of this
fabric. A finely-preserved bit of cloth belonging to the group under
consideration was recently found fixed to the surface of a copper image
from one of the Etowah mounds in Georgia.

This form of weaving is very common among the productions of the modern
tribes of Western America. A very good example is shown in Fig. 87,
which represents the border of a cape like garment made by the Clyoquot
Indians, of Vancouver's Island. It is woven, apparently, of the fiber of
bark, both web and woof showing considerable diversity in the size of
the cords. The border has been strengthened by sewing in a broad, thin
fillet of rawhide.

  [Illustration: Fig. 87.--Modern work, Vancouver's Island.]

The beautiful mats of the northwest coast peoples, from California to
Ounalaska, are often woven in this manner, the materials being bast,
grass, or rushes.

The Lake Dwellers of Switzerland seem to have made a great many
varieties of cloth of this type. I have reproduced four examples from
the great work of Dr. Keller. Fig. 88 is copied from his Fig. 1, Plate
CXXXV. It exhibits some variations from the type, double strips of bast
being bound by a woof consisting of alternate strips of bast and cords.
It is from Robenhausen.

  [Illustration: Fig. 88.--Fabric from the Lake Dwellings,

In Figs. 89 and 90 we have typical examples from the same locality. The
woof series seems to consist of untwisted strands of bast or flax.

  [Illustration: Figs. 89 and 90.--Fabrics from the Lake Dwellings,

                  THIRD GROUP.

A third form of fabric is distinguished from the last by marked
peculiarities in the combinations of the threads. The threads of the
warp are arranged in pairs as in the last form 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, as shown in the section, Fig. 91. This is a very
interesting variety, and apparently one that would possess coherence and
elasticity of a very high order.

  [Illustration: Fig. 91.--Section.]

In Fig. 92 a simple scheme of plaiting or weaving this material is
suggested. It will be seen to differ from the last chiefly in the way
in which the woof is taken up by the warp.

  [Illustration: Fig. 92.--Theoretical device for weaving third group.]

The ancient pottery of the Mississippi Valley furnishes many examples of
this fabric. It is made of twisted cords and threads of sizes similar to
those of the other work described, varying from the weight of ordinary
spool cotton to that of heavy twine. The mesh is generally quite open.

In Fig. 93 we have a very well preserved example from Reelfoot Lake,
Tennessee. It was obtained from a large fragment of coarse pottery.
Other pieces are nearly twice as coarse, while some are much finer.

  [Illustration: Fig. 93.--From the ancient pottery of Tennessee.]

Figs. 94 and 95 are finer specimens from the same locality.

  [Illustration: Fig. 94. Fig. 95.
  From the ancient pottery of Tennessee.]

We have also good examples from Saline River, Illinois. They are
obtained from fragments of the gigantic salt vessels so plentiful
in that locality.

The upper figure of Plate XXXIX illustrates one of these specimens.
Other examples hare been obtained from Roane County, Tennessee.

A piece of charred cloth from a mound in Butler County, Ohio, has been
woven in this manner. Foster has described examples of the two preceding
forms from the same locality. The material used is a vegetable fiber
obtained from the bark of trees or from some fibrous weed. This specimen
is now in the National Museum.

An interesting variety of this form is given in Fig. 96. It is from a
small piece of pottery exhumed from a mound on Fain's Island, Jefferson
County, Tennessee. The threads of the woof are quite close together,
those of the web far apart.

  [Illustration: Fig. 96.--From ancient pottery, Tennessee.]

A very fine example of this variety of fabric was obtained by Dr. Tarrow
from an ancient cemetery near Dos Pueblos, Cal. It is illustrated in
Fig. 2, Plate XIV, vol. VII, of Surveys West of the 100th Meridian.[4]
In describing it, Professor Putnam says that the fiber is probably
obtained from a species of _yucca_. He says that
  "the woof is made of two strands, crossing the warp in such a manner
  that the strands alternate in passing, over and under it, and at the
  same time inclosing two alternate strands, of the latter, making a
  letter X figure of the warp, united at the center of the X by the
  double strands of the woof."
It should be noticed that the series of cords called the woof by
Professor Putnam are designated as warp in my own descriptions. The
illustration shows a fabric identical with that given in the upper
figure of Plate XXXIX, and the description quoted describes perfectly
the type of fabric under consideration.

    [Footnote 4: Putnam, F. W., in Vol. VII of Surveys West of the
    100th Meridian, page 244.]

This method of weaving is still practiced by some of the western tribes,
as may be seen by a visit to the national collection.

A somewhat complicated arrangement of the threads may be seen in
the fabric shown in Fig. 97. It is clearly only a variation of the
combination just described. The manner in which the threads pass over,
under, and across each other can be more easily understood by reference
to the figure than by any description. It comes from one of the
Northwest coast tribes.

  [Illustration: Fig. 97.--Modern fabric, Northwest coast.]

                 FOURTH GROUP.

A fourth form of fabric, illustrated in Fig. 98, is of very rare
occurrence on our fictile remains.

  [Illustration: Fig. 98.--Diagonal fabric, ancient pottery of

It 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 a diagonal pattern.
One series of the cords is fine and well twisted, the other coarser and
very slightly twisted.

The remarkable sample of matting shown in Fig. 99 is from a small piece
of pottery from Alabama. It has been worked in the diagonal style, but
is somewhat different from the last example. It has probably been made
of rushes or heavy blades of grass.

  [Illustration: Fig. 99.--From the ancient pottery of Alabama.]

The texture shown in Fig. 100 is from a rather indistinct impression
upon a small fragment of pottery from Iowa. One series of the strands
seems to have been quite rigid, while the other has been pliable, and
appear in the impression only where they have crossed the rigid series.
The dotted lines indicate their probable course on the under side of the
cross threads.

  [Illustration: Fig. 100.--From ancient pottery, Iowa.]

This form of fabric is very common in modern work.

                  FIFTH GROUP.

In Fig. 101 I present a variety of ancient fabric which has not to my
knowledge been found upon ceramic products. This specimen shows the
method of plaiting sandals practiced by the ancient inhabitants of
Kentucky. Numbers of these very interesting relics have been obtained
from the great caves of that State. They are beautifully woven, and well
shaped to the foot.

  [Illustration: Fig. 101.--Plaiting of a sandal, Kentucky cave.]

The fiber has the appearance of bast and is plaited in untwisted
strands, after the manner shown in the illustration. Professor Putman
describes a number of cast-off sandals from Salt Cave, Kentucky, as
"neatly made of finely braided and twisted leaves of rushes."[5]

    [Footnote 5: Putnam, F. W. Eighth Annual Report of the Peabody
    Museum, p. 49.]

Fig. 102 illustrates a somewhat similar method of plaiting practiced by
the Lake Dwellers of Switzerland, from one of Keller's figures.[6]

  [Illustration: Fig. 102.--Braiding done by the Lake-Dwellers.]

    [Footnote 6: Keller, Dr. F. Lake Dwellers. Fig. 3; Pl. CXXXVI.]

                  SIXTH GROUP.

The art of making nets of spun and twisted cords seems to have been
practiced by many of the ancient peoples of America. Beautiful examples
have been found in the _huacas_ of the Incas and in the tombs of the
Aztecs. They were used by the prehistoric tribes of California and the
ancient inhabitants of Alaska. 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 a number
of varieties. It is possible that some of these impressions may be from
European nets, but we have plentiful historical proof that nets of hemp
were in use by the natives, and as all of this pottery is very old it is
probable that the impressions upon the fragments are from nets of native

Wyman states that nets or net impressions have not been found among the
antiquities of Tennessee. I have found, however, that the pottery of
Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland furnish examples of netting in great
numbers. In many cases the meshes have been distorted by stretching and
overlapping so that the fabric cannot be examined in detail; in other
cases the impressions have been so deep that casts cannot be taken, and
in a majority of cases the fragments are so decayed that no details of
the cords and their combinations can be made out.

In Fig. 103 we have a thoroughly satisfactory restoration from a small
fragment of pottery picked up in the District of Columbia. It is shown
a little larger than natural size in the drawing. 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. It is
a noteworthy fact that in one of these specimens an incised pattern
has been added to the surface of the soft clay after the removal
of the net.

Recent collections from the mounds of Western North Carolina have
brought to light many examples of net-marked pottery. Generally the
impressions are quite obscure, but enough can be seen in the cast to
show clearly the character of the fabric. The restoration given in
Fig. 104 represents an average mesh, others being finer and others
coarser. Another specimen from the same collection is shown in Fig. 105.
The impression is not very distinct, bat there is an apparent doubling
of the cords, indicating a very unusual combination. It is possible that
this may have come from the imperfect imprinting, but I can detect no
indications of a shifting of the net upon the soft clay.

  [Illustration: Fig. 103.--From ancient pottery, District of

  [Illustration: Fig. 104.--Net from the pottery of North Carolina.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 105.--Net from the pottery of North Carolina.]

Many interesting examples could be given, both from the ancient and
modern work of the inhabitants of the Pacific coast, but for the present
I shall content myself by presenting a single example from the Lake
Dwellings of Switzerland (Fig. 106):

  [Illustration: Fig. 106.--Net from the Swiss Lake Dwellings. Keller,
  plate, CXXX.]


The forms of fabrics used by the ancient tribes of the Middle and
Northern Atlantic States in the manufacture and ornamentation of their
pottery have differed materially from those used in the South and West.
As a rule the fragments are smaller and the impressions less perfectly
preserved. The fabrics have been more complicated and less carefully
applied to the vessel. In many cases the impressions seem to have
been made from disconnected bands, belts, or strips of cloth. Single
cords, or cords arranged in groups by rolling on sticks, or by other
contrivances, have been extensively employed. Baskets have doubtless
been used, some of which have been woven, but others have apparently
been of bark or skin, with stitched designs of thread or quills. Some
of the impressions suggest the use of woven vessels or fabrics filled
up with clay or resin, so that the prominences only are imprinted, or
otherwise cloths may have been used in which raised figures were worked.

Fig. 107 is obtained from a fragment of pottery from New Jersey. The
impressions are extremely puzzling, but are such as I imagine might be
made by the use of a basket, the meshes of which had been filled up with
clay or resin so that only the more prominent ridges or series of thongs
remain uncovered to give impressions upon the clay. But the threads or
thongs indicate a pliable net rather than a basket, and the appearance
of the horizontal threads at the ends of the series of raised stitches
suggests that possibly the material may have been bark or smooth cloth
with a heavy pattern stitched into it.

  [Illustration: Fig. 107.--From the ancient pottery of New Jersey.]

Very similar to the above is the example given in Fig. 108, also derived
from the pottery of New Jersey.

  [Illustration: Fig. 108.--From the ancient pottery of New Jersey.]

Fig. 109 illustrates an impression upon another fragment from the same
state. This impression may have been made by a piece of birch bark or
fine fabric with a pattern sewed into it with cords or quills.

  [Illustration: Fig. 109.--From the ancient pottery of New Jersey.]

Fig. 110 illustrates an impression upon a large, well-made vase, with
scalloped rim, from Easton, Pa. The character of the fabric is difficult
to make out, the impression suggesting bead-work. That it is from a
fabric, however, is evident from the fact that there is system and
uniformity in the arrangement of markings, the indentations alternating
as in the impressions of fabrics of the simplest type. Yet there is
an appearance of patchwork in the impression that suggests separate
applications of the material.

  [Illustration: Fig. 110.--From the ancient pottery of Pennsylvania.]

In Figs. 111 and 112 we have what appear to be impressions of bands or
belts. The first shown consists of six parallel cords, coarse and well
twisted, with a border of short cord indentations placed at regular
intervals. This is a very usual form in all parts of the country, from
the Mandan towns of the Missouri to Florida. It is possible that the
cords may in this case have been separately impressed, but the example
given in Fig. 112 is undoubtedly from, a woven band or belt, the middle
portion of which seems to have been a closely-woven cloth, with a sort
of pattern produced by series of raised or knotted threads. The borders
consist of single longitudinal cord impressions with an edging of short
cord indentations placed at right angles to the belt.

  [Illustration: Fig. 111.--From the ancient pottery of Ohio.]

  [Illustration: Fig. 112.--From the ancient pottery of New Jersey.]

Similar to the last is the very effective decorative design impressed
upon a large fragment of pottery from Alabama, shown in Fig. 113. The
peculiarity of this example is the use of plaited instead of twisted
cords. The work is neatly done and very effective. It seems to me almost
certain that single cords have been used. They have been so imprinted
as to form a zone, filled with groups of lines placed at various angles.
An ornamental border of short lines has been added, as in the examples
previously given.

  [Illustration: Fig. 113.--From the ancient pottery of Alabama.]

Two other examples of cord ornamentation, which may be duplicated from
the pottery of almost any of the Atlantic States, are presented in Figs.
114 and 115, the first from a fragment of pottery from Charles County,
Maryland, and the other from the pottery of Alabama.

  [Illustration: Fig. 114.--Cord-markings from ancient pottery of

  [Illustration: Fig. 115.--Cord-markings from ancient pottery of

It will readily be seen that it is extremely difficult to draw a line
between an ornamentation produced by the use of single or grouped cords
and that made by the use of fabrics.

It is not less difficult to say just how much of this use of cords
and fabrics is to be attributed to manufacture simply and how much to

Although the restorations here presented certainly throw considerable
light upon the textile fabrics of the ancient inhabitants of the
Atlantic States, it cannot be affirmed that anything like a complete
idea of their fabrics has been gained. Impressions upon pottery
represent a class of work utilized in the fictile arts. We cannot
say what other fabrics were produced and used for other purposes.

However this may be, attention should be called to the fact that the
work described, though varied and ingenious, exhibits no characters in
execution or design not wholly consonant with the art of a stone-age
people. There is nothing superior to or specifically different from the
work of our modern Indians.

The origin of the use of fabrics and of separate cords in the
ornamentation of pottery is very obscure. Baskets and nets were
doubtless in use by many tribes throughout their pottery making period.
The shaping of earthen vessels in or upon baskets either of plain bark
or of woven splints or of fiber must frequently have occurred. The
peculiar impressions left upon the clay probably came in time to be
regarded as ornamental, and were applied for purposes of embellishment
alone. Decorative art has thus been enriched by many elements of beauty.
These now survive in incised, stamped, and painted designs. The forms as
well as the ornamentation of clay vessels very naturally preserve traces
of the former intimacy of the two arts.

Since the stereotyping of these pages I have come upon a short paper by
George E. Sellers (Popular Science Monthly, Vol. XI, p. 573), in which
is given what I believe to be a correct view of the use of nets in the
manufacture of the large salt vessels referred to on pages 398 and 409.
The use of interior conical moulds of indurated clay makes clear the
reasons for the reversed festooning of the cords to which I called


Cord-markings on pottery                                             423

Diagonal textiles                                                    416

Fabrics, Diagonal                                                    417
  Forms of                                                           401
  from New Jersey                                                    421
    "  Iowa                                                          411
    "  Mississippi Valley                                        408-411
    "  Southern States                                               407
  of lake dwellers                                                   413
  Miscellaneous                                                      415
Farquharson, Prof., describes fabric from Iowa                       411

Holmes, W. H., Catalogue of Ethnological collections                 393

Jewett, L., British vase from the work of                            399

Keller, Dr. F.,
  on fabrics of Swiss lake dwellers              404, 412, 413, 418, 420

Lake dwellings, Fabrics from Swiss               403, 412, 413, 418, 420

Mississippi Valley, Prehistoric fabrics from                     408-411

Nets from Atlantic coast                                             419

Osgood, Miss Kate C., reproduced methods of fabrication         400, 406

Putnam, F. W., on ancient fabrics                               415, 418

Swiss lake dwellings, Fabrics from               403, 412, 413, 418, 420

Textiles, Diagonal                                                   417
  Forms of                                                           401
  from Mississippi Valley, Prehistoric                           408-411
    "  New Jersey, Prehistoric                                       421
    "  Southern States, Prehistoric                                  407
    "  Swiss Lake dwellers, Prehistoric                              413
  Miscellaneous                                                      415
  used to support pottery                                            398

Vase from the work of Llewellyn Jewett, British                      399

Weaving illustrated from pottery, Materials used in                  397
  Modes of                                                 401, 405, 413
Wyman, Prof., on cord-marked pottery of Tennessee                    398

Yarrow, Dr., H. C., obtained fabrics from pottery in California      415

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Prehistoric Textile Fabrics Of The United States, Derived From Impressions On Pottery - Third Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1881-82, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1884, pages 393-425" ***

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