The origins and history of the hammock

Nearly all sources mention Christopher Columbus in the discovery of the hammock. However, the hammock actually dates back more than 1,000 years ago to Central America. The hammocks were suspended above the ground, so the inhabitants were protected from harmful creatures.

It is thought that Christopher Columbus was introduced to the hamaca (hammock) during his travels at the end of the 15th Century by the Taino Indians, a Haitian tribe, in which he brought a variety of hammocks to Europe where they gained appeal.

He mentions in records in 1492 that “people were sleeping in nets between the trees”. When he returned from his journey to Europe he introduced it to his home continent, where it soon became an important bed for the sailors of colonial times.  Instead of having to sleep on the wet, hard vermin infested dirty deck, sailors could now sleep relaxed and comfortable in their hammock, using the gentle rocking of the swell of the sea to fall asleep.

During this time, European weavers began crafting hammocks out of cotton, canvas, and other cloths, as well as sending these materials to weave hammocks in the New World. By the mid 16th century in many parts of the world, the hammock was used as an alternative to the traditional bed. The U.S. military even turned to hammocks for sleeping when away from home. Hammocks quickly gained widespread appeal by both the wealthy and the underprivileged, and by the end of the 19th century, the first mass producer of hammocks opened in Pawley’s Island, South Carolina.

In 1841, the English Dictionary of Sea Terminology, incorporated the word ‘hammock’ into its book and therefore, and for all time the name hammock shall be synonymous with the sea mariner life. The 1841 edition officially defined the word hammock as, “a piece of canvas, hung at each end, in which seamen sleep”.

Today, hammocks don’t necessarily symbolize protection. Rather, they represent relaxation, serenity, and comfort. After owning a hammock, many people learn that there aren’t many things better than stretching out in a luxurious hammock for a summer nap by the pool or to read a good book. Of course, if stretching out in a hammock provides safety from harm’s way, that’s an added bonus! The main aim of the hammocks it to provide relaxation and well-being, but there are also practical reasons for valuing the hammock: it is highly space-saving, extremely flexible in usage and can be suspended and demounted in a matter of seconds.

Today, there has been an improvement on the traditional hammock due to design, materials, and comfort. Some hammocks are still used for insect protection with the addition of enclosed nets, and some are simply used as a luxurious relaxation portal. Hammocks today represent a luxury for many, but it can’t be taken for granted that the hammock is one of the oldest pieces of furniture in the history of mankind.

This is a  miniature hammock made of pure gold, in the museum of gold in Bogotá, capital of Columbia. The value of the hammock was known very early on, as they started calling the hammock the “cradle of the gods”. The first hammocks were made of the bark of the hamack tree, making the origin of the original name “hamaca” .

Gold Hammocks


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