Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 26.djvu/114

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
104
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

The eastern Bechuanas and Caffres are fond of carving canes entwined with snakes. While the cane and snake are made from the same piece, the latter is attached only at a few points, so that the mass of its body is left free. The wooden arrows, which have barbed heads, are used for shooting small game. Sometimes wooden arrowheads are set loose in shafts of reed, so that, when the latter are drawn out, the points shall remain in the wound.

Rush mats are made by the Hottentots, by stringing rushes on a needle and drawing a thread through them. Threads and cords are made from bark-fibers and fibers of aloe without the aid of any tools, simply by twisting them with the flat hand upon the leg. Baskets are made from roots and from palm-leaves, where that material can be had. The foundation of the basket is laid with a spiral of thick braid, as our straw hats are begun, to which rings are added and connected as compactly as possible by cords, and the vessel is made tight enough to hold milk or any other fluid. Skins are dressed by saturating them with fat, and rubbing and kneading them with the hands and feet till they are perfectly pliable: or, if they are very thick, by beating them with a club. Straps are prepared by cutting them out spirally from the. skin, so as to get as great a length as the leather will afford. The strap is then slung over a stout limb, so that its ends will come as near to the ground as they will reach: the ends are weighted with a stone, and the doubled strap is twisted up, with the aid of a lever, as tightly as possible, till the stone is raised nearly up to the limb. The lever is then drawn out, and the strap is allowed to untwist and retwist itself again and again. This process is repeated, with oiling, for several days, till the strap becomes quite pliable. Skins which are to be made into bottles are taken off from the carcass with as little cutting as possible, the knife being generally used only at the tail and the feet, after which the hide is pulled off literally over the ears. The bottles are then tanned in the common manner, but are only used for keeping dry articles. The Hottentots employ bark in tanning skins, but it is possible they learned the art from the Europeans.

Skins are also used for clothing, without any making up, but worn just as they are left after dressing, with at most only a little shell embroidery, but are not sewed to one another, except when they are to be used for bed-coverings or curtains. Thorns, which grow on the acacias and mimosas, of every shape and size that can be desired, are employed as needles, and for thread the long sinews from the backbones of slaughtered animals, which are stiff enough to be pushed through the hole made by the thorn without any further aid than their own rigidity. In the ante-European times pins, buckles, and hooks were unknown, and the only means of holding the garment upon the person was by a belt, or the hands: or, if a whole sheep-skin was worn as a cloak, the head was left to hang down behind, and the hind-legs were brought over the shoulders and tied.