Origin of the hammock

The history of the hammock


Woher kommt die Hängematte?

„… han inventado los idios el dormir colgados el el aire, sobre una red“
(„erfunden haben die Indianer das Schlafen in der Luft schwebend in einem Netze“)
-Jesuitenpater José Gumilla (1741)

Die genauen Ursprünge der Hängematte verlaufen sich im Dunkeln.
Man weiß nur, dass sie von Völkern in Mittel und Südamerika als Schlafgelegenheit verwendet wurde, als die Europäer vor 500 Jahren nach Amerika kamen.

Sowohl den Inkas als auch den Mayas wird die Erfindung jeweils zugeschrieben.

Warum ist es so wichtig, dass die Hängematte schon vor Jahrtausenden erfunden wurde?

Viele Erfindungen sind nach wenigen Jahren wieder in der Versenkung verschwunden.

Wenn also ein Gegenstand über Jahrtausende hinweg für die Menschen von Nutzen ist, dann muss in ihm ein tiefer Wert stecken.

Das gilt auch für die Hängematte. Wenn wir den tieferen Wert der Hängematte verstehen und was sie so erfolgreich macht, hilft uns das, das beste aus dieser Erfindung zu machen, wenn wir unsere eigenen Hängematten kaufen.

Seit wann gibt es schon Hängematten?

Da Hängematten vollständige verrotten, können über das Alter der Hängematte nur Vermutungen angestellt werden. Es gibt dennoch ein paar archäologische Funde, die auf ein ungefähres Alter der Hängematte hinweisen

Votive hammock from Colombia (700-1500 AD)

A direct reference to hammocks before the time of Columbus, is the votive hammock made of gold wire from Colombia.

The votive hammock can be seen today in the Museo de Oro in Bogotá.

Vessel from Guanacaste, Costa Rica (0-500 AD)

One sees the relief of a woman with a child in a hammock.

Further evidence is available in indirect form, for example in the form of impressions on pottery showing the weave pattern of a hammock, because these often served as a base for potters.

Pottery from Tabasco, Mexico (600-900 AD)

Another cylindrical pottery depicts a high-ranking Mayan personality in a hammock lined with jaguar fur.

Apparently the noble Maya held court in hammocks and were also transported in them, e.g. on war campaigns.

Now on display at the Museo Antropología, Villahermosa, Mexico.

Bartolomé de las Casas (1484 – 1566), theologian and also called “Apostle of the Indians”, contemporary and friend of Columbus

As an explorer of a new world, how do you describe the hammock?

Navigators after Columbus, travelers, missionaries, officials, and adventurers repeatedly mention the hammock along with other oddities of the South American continent.

Only with the description they struggled a little. Thus she compares Barolomé to a slingshot:

“The beds they slept in, which they called them hamacas, were of the shape of a slingshot … and they tie them to one post each, from one to the other, and they get caught in the air that way, and that’s how they lie down in it, it’s a good bed and clean, in a place where it’s not cold … and it doesn’t weigh eight pounds, and you can carry it away under your arm.

Finally, for on-the-go, it’s very suitable.”

Brazil: White woman carried in hammock by slaves (1630)

What were hammocks used for?

  • All pre-Hispanic representations show the hammock as a means of transport or prestige object of the advanced civilizations rather than as a place to sleep.
  • Originally, a net was used. This could be used for fishing during the day and for sleeping at night.
  • Hammocks were used in the past for children in the dormitories of the poorhouses – to save space
  • At the end of the 16th century. the hammock was integrated into the European navy. As late as 1904, Meyer’s Großes Konversationslexikon defined the hammock as the “hanging bed of warship sailors”, emphasizing that “a well-tied hammock also serves as a means of rescue, as it can float for hours”.
  • Today, over 100 million people still use the hammock as a place to sit and sleep; especially in Latin America, Africa as well as Southeast Asia.


Armando Reclus

Engineer Armando Reclus (1843 – 1927)

Warning about the hammock

Panama report by French engineer Armando Reclus:

The hammocks are deceitful, far more dangerous than the climate, prostitution or alcohol!

You can find them everywhere, in all the rooms of the houses or among the trees in the forest.

It seems as if they attract you, invite you to gently sway in them; in the weakness and during the heaviness that takes over the body after a meal.

One stretches out in it with such satisfaction, after a trip to the woods!

Where better to fight any inconvenient thoughts than in this airy bed, while following with your eyes the bluish spirals of cigar smoke?

You unfortunates whose souls are not yet temperate enough to resist the effeminacies of these places of doom, for soon enough you will spend days there, too feeble to rise; the first duty is for all who wish to preserve their physical strength and morals to declare war on the hammock.

The ruler who will have sufficient power to proclaim a law leading to the immediate annihilation of all hammocks would do the greatest service to the country, worthy always to be reminded of the realization of moral and material improvement for the country.

(Source: The World of Hammock Book)

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