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What Fiber?

Spent several hours on Tuesday afternoon with the Conservators in the Anthropology Department of the American Museum of Natural History looking at artifacts from the 1935 Vernay-Hopwood Expedition to the upper reaches of the Chindwin River in northern Burma. Trying to indentify all of the different plant fibers used. The knotted, split cane wrapped around the base of the headress shown in the image above, for example. Bamboo or rattan? And the yellow, flattened (vertical) fiber shown on the left in this image? Dendrobium stalk? And the red dye? And the mordant (see Mordant) used to fix the color?

And how about in the image of the scabbard below. Is the horizontal curve of rounded plant material in the center of the image a cane - or a root fiber? And the finely plaited material shown to the right? Split bamboo or rattan? This is tricky stuff. And great fun to speculate about. 

[NOTE: Warm thanks to Erin, Nicole, Judith, and Samatha at the AMNH for letting me interrupt their lunch and for giving me a glimpse of these priceless artifiacts. Images by Samantha Anderson].


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