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Cedar bark mat with concentric square pattern. [CAK 28/05/2010]

Longer Description

Cedar bark mat with concentric square pattern. The mat is rectangular and the weave is a plain chequer weave. On the top side of the mat, the pattern is a series of concentric squares, dyed a dark brown. On the underside of the mat, the pattern is a series of cross shapes. The warps begin in the centre of the mat, and the mat may actually be two pieces sewn together. Running down the centre is a fine two-strand twisted rope made from cedar bark or possibly spruce root. [CAK 28/05/2010]
Mat consisting of 2 pieces joined together very neatly. Plain chequer weave, with pattern of concentric squares in black-dyed cedar bark. [? LMM, undated]

Primary Documentation

Accession Book Entry - [XI 131] August 1942. The late Henry Balfour, F.R.S., continued. The late H. Balfour, Esq. F.R.S. Miscellaneous items found unlabelled, entered for convenience as donations of the late Curator. - Mat of rattanwork, Cedar-bark, ornamented with plaited geometrical pattern. Found unlabled. ? Borneo, N. America. NW Coast. Haida Indians.
Additional Accession Book Entry - [on facing page] May be The same as the mat entered B.I.14, coll. by and purch. from Rev. Ch. Harrison, March 1891. No other Haida mat in the Museum (24.8.1954). JC 5/9/1996.
Additional Accession Book Entry - See 1891.49.108 MdeA 19/5/1997.

Accession book entry: From Rev. Ch. Harrison, 80 Halton Rd, Canonbury Sq. N. Collection of Haida objects collected by him.... - Mat of cedar bark.' Later thought to have been found unentered, ascribed to Henry Balfour and accessioned as: '1942.8.46 Mat of rattanwork ornamented with plaited geometrical pattern. Found unlabelled. ? BORNEO.' Later, 'rattan work' amended to 'cedar-bark', 'plaited' deleted and provenance changed to 'N.AMERICA, N.W.COAST. HAIDA INDIANS.' Further note: 'May be The same as the mat entered B.I.14, coll. by & purch. from Rev. Ch. Harrison, March 1891. No other Haida mat in the Museum (24.8.1954).

No additional information on catalogue cards. [JC 4 9 1996]

Pitt Rivers Museum label - N. AMERICA QUEEN CHARLOTTE ISLANDS Coll. by Rev. Ch. Harrison. Purch. from him March 1891. 8[?].I.14. [CAK 05/05/2009]

Related Documents File - The Haida Project Related Documents File contains video of research sessions and interviews with Haida delegates from September 2009 as part of the project ‘Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge’. It also includes post-visit communications that discuss object provenance. For extensive photographic, video, and textual records documenting the Haida research visit as a whole, including but not limited to preparations of objects for handling, travel logistics, British Museum participation, transcribed notes from research sessions and associated public events held at PRM, see the Haida Project Digital Archive, stored with the Accessions Registers. Original hand-written notes taken during research sessions have been accessioned into the Manuscripts collection, in addition to select other materials. [CAK 02/06/2010]

Research Notes

The following information comes from Haida delegates who worked with the museum’s collection in September 2009 as part of the project “Haida Material Culture in British Museums: Generating New Forms of Knowledge”:
This mat was viewed alongside other woven objects on Monday Sept 14, 2009. Nika Collison and Kwiaawah Jones identified the pattern woven into the mat as the 'box within a box' pattern. They also observed that he design on the underside of the mat is different to that on the top: on the underside are crosses instead of concentric squares. Kwiaawah also observed that the long edges were finished differently to the short edges. It is meant to fold and roll up so that it could be transported easily. The seam down the centre of the mat has been made with twisted cedar bark or spruce root that has been twisted into a two-strand rope. Nika and Kwiaahwah observed that the warps start in the centre of the mat. They thought that the mat was woven entirely from cedar bark and that the darker fibres could have been dyed using a nail and alder wood. When alder wood is pinned to cedar bark using an iron nail, a black or brown colour results. Alder wood on its own dyes cedar a red colour. Another delegate thought that mat was definitely cedar due to its characteristic sheen. Nika and Kwiaawah thought it could be a gambler's mat or a weaver's mat. Christian White also commented that it could be a gambling mat, but that there were also mats for sitting on and marriage mats. He suspected the latter two would be larger, however. It was noted that mats were also used for clothing and blankets. Lucille Bell explained that when two people get married, they sat on a large mat. There is a marriage mat at the Haida Gwaii Museum made by Lucille's mother, Mona Bell, on which Lucille was married. Lucille thought this could have been two individual mats joined together by the cord in the centre. Ruth Gladstone Davies wondered if the seam in the centre allowed the mat to be placed over something, like a tent. She added that sometimes a master would weave one side and the apprentice would weave the other. Vince Collison thought the pattern derived from Raven's Tail weaving. Kwiaahwah Jones sensed that this was a woman's mat and that it had feminine qualities to it. Nika Collison mentioned that there is an archival photo of a half-finished mat.
It was explained that the each of the cedar strips woven into the mat would have been separated and 'cut' by hand. The weaver would use their thumbnail to slice strips off the bark. No other measuring device was used, and therefore the length of the maker's nail dictated the width of the strips. Another delegate described a technique of using mussel shell to slice strips of bark. It was reported that today, weavers use a device called a Jerry Stripper that can be set to variable lengths and can cut multiple strips at one time. [CAK 27/05/2010]

Item History

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