The British Museum's collections, £16.99
Diameter: 36.000 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
AOA Van 196
Room 26: North America
Coiled rush hat (sumulelu)
Chumash, 18th century
From California, North America
A priest's hat
The hat is decorated with crosses, as well as traditional geometric designs. Chumash women sometimes wore coiled brimless caps, but the Spanish explorer Pedro Font indicated in 1776 that California basket weavers were already experimenting with new shapes of headgear:
'They know how to make baskets with a great variety of designs and of any form which may be requested of them - even the shape of sombreros....'
This unique Chumash priest's hat may have been made for a favoured father, possibly Vincent Santa María, whom George Vancouver called an 'excellently-good man' and transported from Santa Barbara to Ventura on his way south along the California coast in 1793.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)