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  1. #1

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    Giant pre-columbian hammocks

    Seems the original, real-deal sleeping technology of the new world were hammocks 17-18' long, 9-12' wide. Did you know? Suddenly 11', "extra wide" hammocks seem puny.

    I'd read that Columbus first mentioned hammocks in writing. I'd read several characterizations about his journeys. Somehow I never thought to read his journals and other primary "first contact" accounts myself. He's not a good writer. He's actually a jerk (to put it mildly: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/columbus_day) making me a bit sad and mad to share European heritage with him, but let's not get too political. Reading between the lines of his narrative is gripping.

    Full text of the first journal is here: http://eada.lib.umd.edu/text-entries/journal/

    If you can't handle the stilted style, some summary comments and highlights:

    Spain at the time felt itself under siege by Islam to the south and east. Spain had also freshly conducted a pogrom against Jews. Columbus' journey was a quasi-military exercise against Islam, the idea being that if the people behind the Muslims (Indians) could be converted to Christianity, then Islam would be better contained, having Christians on all flanks except south. So sneak around the muslims by sailing west to plant some christianity bombs... brilliant plan Christopher!

    The first "Indians" he met, he seemed surprised were friendly. After all he'd just declared their island as belonging to Spain in some lawyerly ceremonies involving flags and insignia, and immediately began searching for (their) gold. He presented a sword, and the people grabbed the blade cutting themselves, having no understanding of arms. He remarked that they were healthy and attractive, without distended bellies. Said they'd make excellent servants, and proposed to kidnap some home to teach Spanish. Said that with 50 men he could conquer and rule them all. And oh yeah, since they were docile and "had no religion" they could surely be converted to "our holy faith" without much force. How nice!

    But about their living arrangements, he says their houses are clean and well swept, very tall, shaped like tents (?) and that they store their stuff and sleep in cotton nets. That they call hamacas. Note the dual-use: not just sleeping but gear hammocks. Perhaps the well-swept/clean remark reflects the extent of the use of gear hammocks: little or nothing on the floor to harbor pests or filth. These were after all fishers in island homes in prime hurricane territory: having homes on stilts where nothing's on the ground to be swept away in storm surges, everything hanging, is smart.

    They also row boats called canoas: these are the first 2 words to cross from new to old world: hammock and canoe. Columbus wanted gold above all, and was annoyed when they wouldn't give or trade for what little he saw of it. But what the people did present for trade were hammocks, rowing up alongside the big boats in their canoes. I see this as Columbus missing the true gold offered him.

    Elsewhere Bartolome de las Casas, bishop of Chiapas in following decades, who was less of a jerk than Columbus, described the hammocks in more detail, saying that they were loose looped open weave, the bed part being as long as a man (let's say 5-6'). Then in addition to this were the cords on either side of the bed surface, each 6' long terminating in a fist-like knot, tied to the posts of their houses. So 17-18' long all told! Then he says the better ones were 3-4 yards (rods) wide (9-12'), and that the users laid across. Transverse like Amok? At that width you could! At that width and length indeed you could probably accommodate a whole small family, multiple sleepers finding their own little pockets in the mesh.

    A hammock this long, you'd need to hang very high to keep off the ground. This might account for the great height of the houses remarked by Columbus. Plugging numbers into Derek's hang calculator, hang points easily above 9' assuming any suspension at all between knot and post.

    Suddenly I want to make a mega-hammock.

    Amerigo Vespucci followed closely upon Columbus's tracks. His journeys (either 2 or 4, in dispute) took him mainly along the coast of South America, quite a lot of it. (The Americas bear his name because unlike Columbus who died stubbornly believing he'd landed on the far side of Asia, Vespucci knew he'd found a "new world.") He also remarks that the people sleep in nets, even declaring that they are more comfortable than "coverlets" (sheeted beds). He also details that when a person is gravely ill, they will hang his or her hammock in the forest, perform dances around it for a day, leave food and water near the head, then leave. If the person recovers enough to return to the village, great. Otherwise they die there. If I don't die suddenly, I think a hammock would be a nice place to let go.

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    Last edited by Latherdome; 09-13-2018 at 22:21.
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    Tensa Outdoor, LLC, maker of the Tensa4 tensahedron hammock stand, and the Tensa Solo ultralight flavor too.
    http://tensaoutdoor.com/

  2. #2
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    Great post, thanks for the info.

  3. #3
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    Wow, interesting!

  4. #4
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    I've been to a few spots in Mexico, in the Yucatan peninsula/mayan riviera where they've still got these giant hammocks in buildings

    they're almost trampoline sized, but there's also a lot of "just" big ones intended for 2 people

  5. #5
    Senior Member BigE94's Avatar
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    The condensed version is very much appreciated. Great post.
    I would rather be in the woods... my dog would rather be in the pool. My wife thinks we are both nuts.

  6. #6
    Senior Member P-Dub's Avatar
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    Great info!

    Just to connect these two related threads...

    https://www.hammockforums.net/forum/...ight=lost+time

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Thanks. Latherdome, for the interesting history read! I want a giant trampoline AND a giant hammock. Maybe an all-in-one? A huge bouncy hammock would be heaven. A swinging trampoline could be really scary fun ...

  8. #8
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    Latherdome,
    Thank you for sharing this interesting information. I have sent it already to a friend.

  9. #9

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    After using standard sheets and blankets on a traditional bed for 96.3% of my life, I've become addicted to down quilts these past couple years. I'm guessing that gigantic hammocks are best suited for warm climates where insulation is not needed. Up north here hey, the cost of down quilts to insulate an area that is 9-12' wide and 5-6' long would start to add up!
    The game is the best teacher.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Watertooner View Post
    After using standard sheets and blankets on a traditional bed for 96.3% of my life, I've become addicted to down quilts these past couple years. I'm guessing that gigantic hammocks are best suited for warm climates where insulation is not needed. Up north here hey, the cost of down quilts to insulate an area that is 9-12' wide and 5-6' long would start to add up!
    Even in Brazil, where there is unbroken tradition of hammocks as normal bedding since before Columbus, I’m told that bottom insulation was unknown before the last decade or so, when the underquilt as developed by North American recreationalist hammockers broke through. It does apparently get a bit chilly sometimes in Brazil. Perhaps having to suffer when the temps are low is one factor that had kept hammocks associated with backwards rural poverty in the American tropics, and underquilts can help restore pride in this indigenous way. It’s exciting to me that hammocks needn’t be a one-way reclamation or appropriation from decimated ancient cultures, but that the adopters might have something to give back, actually improving hammocks as beds instead of degrading them into tippy lawn furniture with spreader bars.
    --
    Tensa Outdoor, LLC, maker of the Tensa4 tensahedron hammock stand, and the Tensa Solo ultralight flavor too.
    http://tensaoutdoor.com/

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