Dog hair blankets in Native America?

Mass spectrometry has been used to resolve a debate about the fibres used to weave Native American blankets.

The blankets have been known as ‘dog hair’ blankets because oral histories passed down by descendents of the Salish weavers, who were indigenous to the Pacific coast of North America, told of the blankets being woven from the hair of dogs who were specially bred for their fur.

copyright University of York Department of Archaeology

Researchers at the University of York‘s Departments of Biology, Archaeology and Chemistry analysed the protein composition of 25 textile samples from 11 different locations.  These textiles were housed in famous collections like the Smithsonian Institution and some came from the expeditions of Lewis and Clark (1803-1806) and Wilkes (1838-1842).

The researchers didn’t find any garments that were made of purely dog hair.

There was evidence of dog hair in a robe of fur and six textile samples, primarily in a blend with goat hair.  The researchers concluded that the dog fur was used to supplement goat hair as a bulking material.

They have published their findings in the journal Antiquity.

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