Letter | Published:

“The Indians of Guiana”

Abstract

IN the notice of Mr. Im Thurn's work on the Indians of Guiana, in the current volume of NATURE (p. 305), Mr. Tylor writes: “What is still more curious is that the rude method of making thread by rolling palm or grass fibre into a twist with the palm of the hand on the thigh may be commonly seen in Guiana, although the use of the spindle for spinning cotton is also usual.” As such a fact appears to be curious to so eminent an anthropologist as Mr. Tylor, it may be of interest to some of your readers to learn that this mode of twisting fibres is still by no means uncommon in India, though spinning must there have been familiar to the natives for unnumbered generations. I have frequently seen Hindus of various castes twist a mass of jute-fibre into a compact and firm rope of considerable length, between the palm of the hand and the inside of the thigh, and by the same means they will frequently produce long pieces of strongly coherent twine when the need for it arises. From my experience, which, though confined to a small geographical area, comprehended an acquaintance with both Hindus and Mohammedans imported into the tea-districts from almost every part of British India, I should suppose that this custom of twisting fibres into rope and twine is universal throughout the country, though doubtless it is resorted to rather as a makeshift than as a regular mode of manufacturing twisted cords. That such a means should be resorted to by the wild tribes of the north-eastern frontier is by no means strange, though these have acquired not a little skill in spinning and weaving cotton, but that so primitive a method should still prevail amongst peoples so highly cultured as the Hindus and Mohammedans of India often struck me as remarkable.

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