Powhatan's Mantle

Powhatan's mantle. Powhatan's mantle.

Powhatan's mantle is a native North American garment from the early seventeenth century. It is made of white-tailed deer skin (Odocoileus virginianus, also called Dama virginiana) decorated with applied shells. The mantle is made of four tanned buckskin pieces sewn together with sinew thread (slightly s-spun). It measures 2.33 x 1.5 m.

The decorative element is made from small seashells (Marginella roscida), which were perforated and attached to the buckskin ground with a fine sinew thread. The pattern consists of a human figure in the centre flanked on either side by animals. The pattern is surrounded by circles. The exact meaning of the design is unknown, although it has been suggested that it may be some form of map.

The mantle is associated with Chief Powhatan (also called Wahunsenacawh, who died in 1618), the paramount chief of the Tsenacommacah, an alliance of Algonquian-speaking Native Americans from what is now Virginia, USA. Powhatan was the father of Pocahontas. which includes a purse or bag embroidered with shells and three bows.

In 1659 it became part of the Elias Ashmole collection, who later used it as the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The mantle is now part of the Tradescant Collection, the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (acc. no. AN1685.B.205). The mantle was first put on display in 1683, when the museum opened to the public. The mantle is part of a small group of Algonquian Indian artefacts.

See also: Native American decorative needlework


Digital source of illustration (retrieved 8 July 2016).


Last modified on Sunday, 18 September 2016 18:38