The New World Tapestry

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cene Four
         1584 PANEL

All the clothing and lifestyle of the native Americans illustrated on the Tapestry is based entirely on the drawings of Plymothian John White the artist who became Governor of the Roanoke colony in 1585. 

White’s drawings were used nearly 400 years later by Tom Mor when he came to design the tapestry in 1979 because so determined was he to copy the correct dress of the native Americans and avoid future criticism if he got it wrong that he contacted the ultimate reference source, the American Embassy in London for advice. He was told that there was only one source that was factually true and that was the book of the drawings of John White published by the British Museum. So a copy was bought and viewers of the Tapestry are invited to compare Mor’s illustrations with White’s original artwork for they will find them very faithful interpretations, as this scene shows. 

The Indians, as the colonists call the natives, are unaware that the English are more than just intruders but aliens intent on stealing their land so at first they get on well together and one of the party, Thomas Hariot (arms shown) sets about investigating the local culture, recording it in detail and attempting to understand the local language. The Indians he finds do not live in wigwams but in thatched huts and pictured here is how they made their canoes. 

Trees are not chopped down but burnt down. The branches too are burnt off, not axed and then the trunks are hollowed out using sharp rocks and fire. As to the dress of the Indians it’s almost non-existent for this is hot sweltering summertime. 

This is an almost exact copy of White’s original illustration of how the Indians made their canoes with the exception that Mor has added ”She who must be obeyed”, the Chief’s wife, to the picture. 

Roanoke Island marks the meeting point of Albermarle Sands. It is the largest body of enclosed water between Florida and Chesapeake Bay but the settlers will find that the combined Sounds only provide illusionary protection for shipping and then only vessels of a shallow draught. Nevertheless Amadas, Barlow and Hariot, with others are bent on recording as much as they can before they leave in September, the plants, trees, the soil, the animals and above all the Indian’s language and lifestyle.

tapestry photo 1584 scene four

PEACH  Malus persica.  ‘The leaves boiled in milk, do kill the worms in children very speedily’. Gerard.

COWSLIP  Primula veris.  ‘Cowslips are commended against the paine of the joints called the Gout, and slacknesse of the sinews, which is the palsie’. Gerard.

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