Thursday, November 9, 2017

Poison dart quiver :: Around The World From 80 Countries

One of my favorite objects in the Around the World exhibition was the pair of earrings made of beetle wings.  The Shuar men who wore the earrings live in the tropical rain forests of eastern Ecuador and northern Peru, near the headwaters of the Marañón River. The Shuar people supplement the food from their gardens with meat from birds, iguana, monkeys and peccaries.  When they go hunting, they fill a bamboo quiver with darts or arrows made from the sharpened central rib of a palm leaf.   

They tip the darts with poison made using curare from plants, possibly supplemented with poisons from snakes or frogs, boiled until it is a thick paste.  Attached to the quiver is a gourd which would be filled with cotton from the kapok tree.  When the Shuar hunter spots prey, he wraps the kapok around the end of the dart and inserts it into his blowgun.  The kapok ensures an airtight fit. The hunter blows through the end, sending the dart flying.  When the animal is hit, the curare causes its muscles to relax and it falls to the ground and dies.  The curare is absorbed slowly so the flesh of the animal killed this way may be safely eaten.

Using blowguns as long as 7 feet and foot-long darts, a Shuar hunter could hit birds over 130 feet away.  Today, however, most of these hunters use shotguns. 

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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