Roach or head-dress

From north-eastern North America
18th or 19th century AD

The roach is named after the arched back and fin of the fish, as it would have worn by folding and attaching to a scalp-lock as a crest, with the rest of the head probably shaven.

This example is constructed from a 'U'-shaped piece of skin, decorated with folded quillwork, enclosing red-dyed hair, with some rectangular areas left undyed. The areas to be left undyed are coated in a dye-resistant material such as wax. When the object has been dyed, the coating is removed leaving the undyed area in its original colour.

Ornaments, or head-dresses, of animal hair were widely worn in eastern North America and on the Plains; they are still much used in pow-wow performances by men. A variety of hairs were used, such as white deer tail hair, often dyed red, moose-hair and black turkey beard. Most common are those made of turkey beard. They are held open by comb-like objects, originally carved of antler, called roachspreaders.

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More information


J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)


Length: 8.000 cm

Museum number

AOA 2598


Christy Collection


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