Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Length: 8.000 cm
Room 26: North America
Roach or head-dress
From north-eastern North
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.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)