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Origins of the Hammock

Jul 25, 2017

We're in the midst of Summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, a time of heat, vacations and relaxation.  In this article from ecomall.com we learn of the origins of one of the most relaxings invention in the history of humankind - the hammock!
 
In the Beginning....... Where did the Hammock originate? Most Central American countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica ~ and South American countries like Brazil and Equador ~ have a rich and ancient heritage associated with hammocks that predate North Americans by 800 - 900 years. It is generally accepted that the origins of the hammock began approximately 1000 years ago in Central America by the Mayan Indians. This advanced culture which produced the most accurate calendar, the Mayan calendar, built the architecturally exquisite pyramids and stone palaces, created their own writing system, and were extraordinary astronomers and mathematicians, also designed a web-like hammock which is still in use today and considered to be the most ingenious and comfortable of all hammocks.
 
The earliest hammocks were woven from the bark of the Hamak tree. The Sisal plant {similar in looks to an Aloe Vera plant} later replaced the bark as the material of choice for the hammock because it was more abundant, and its fibers could be softened by rubbing them against the thigh. The use of cotton in these original hammocks is a relatively new material adopted only in the last 50 - 60 years!
 
Because of the extensive trade routes which were established between the Indian nations of Central and South America, the hammock naturally found its way into the heart and home of millions of natives. Hammocks were soon being made from indigenous fabrics and materials which resulted in a multitude of styles, which have evolved to the classic cloth/fabric hammock, typical of Brazil, and cord and rope hammocks similar to today's styles.
 
Shortly after Columbus dropped anchor in the "New World" hoping to find shiploads of gems, spices and fine silks he found, instead, a load of natives of the Bahamas lounging in hammocks for their afternoon siesta and demonstrating their genetically superior disdain for time! Columbus decided to take a load of hammocks back to Europe with him, along with the few gold trinkets he was given {which would ultimately create the first gold rush in the new world and be the beginning of the end of many great nations}, probably to substitute for the lack of other "Eastern treasures". Soon, many European sailors, particularly the British and the French, found the hammocks very useful and practical for sleeping at sea.
 
The Europeans generally utilized canvas cloth for their hammocks, which the Navy used for three centuries. These naval hammocks, unlike their predecessors, were small, sweaty and cramped - each sailor was allowed about 4 inches in width! During battle engagements, the hammocks were rolled up in tight bundles and jammed into racks on the ship's gunwales as protection against small arms fire. A few bullet holes were probably welcome ventilation to the sailors!
 
In 19th century Britain the prison system incorporated the hammock as their standard sleeping apparatus because of its space saving qualities. The large brass hammock loop ends were hung over two large hooks securely fastened to opposing walls and could be taken down and folded up or hung off one hook for storage to create instant space {a technique commonly used today indoors}. However, when the inmates realized what sweet little weapons the brass rings made, the wardens got rid of them.
 
In the 18th century hammocks in North America were still considered a novelty. Most hammocks were narrow with wood staves and demanded agility and balance. It wasn't until the 1880's, thanks in part to a wider version, that the hammock became popular in North America. Today, approximately 500,000 - 2,000,000 hammocks are sold yearly in North America to siesta seeking consumers. World wide over 100 million people use hammocks as beds or furniture everyday, including Africa, China, Philippines, South Pacific, and of course, Central and South America.
 
The hammock has definitely earned its "space" in the annals of history and definitely a place somewhere in our life today ~ indoors or out ~ and will continue to play a significant role in relaxation and leisure into the distant future.
 
Enjoy your own Hammock! As summer approaches and the temperature begins to rise and stabilize at a comfortable level, North Americans' innate instinct for leisure time activity kicks into full gear. Among the many favorite summertime traditions commonly encountered in our culture is the inaugural stringing up of the family hammock ~ the quintessential representation of leisure time itself! While signifying relaxation and pleasure, it is often relegated as a "reward" for accomplishing less appealing activities like mowing the lawn, weeding the garden, or repainting the fence. For many hammock aficionados, procrastination naturally becomes a way of life!........So do yourself a favor and 'swing' into summer with your own 'Dangerously Comfortable' Hammock.







Images:  The ultimate relaxation & sleepy time - animatedimages.org
 

 


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