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ancient sandals
Ancient sandals, made from yucca leaves.

Life of the Early People at Bandelier

CLOTHING. The third basic requirement of the Frijoles newcomer was clothing, particularly warm clothing to combat the winter. Traveling into this area in the warm months, presumably, he may or may not have been able to bring along a full cold-weather wardrobe. If he did not, the materials to contrive warm clothes were available here for the taking. Ingenuity and work would have produced the necessary garments.

The obvious coverings were skins and hides of the game animals which the hunters collected. A bear skin was a most desirable cold weather protection—but there were certainly never enough bear in this part of the country to take care of all the Indian needs. Other long-haired animals, such as wolf, coyote, fox, and bobcat, no doubt played a minor part in the clothing schemes of the local people. But the real mainstay of fur-robe manufacture, of which there is fragmentary evidence in many ruins, was the lowly rabbit.

Rabbit skins apparently were not used in one piece, but rather were cut into long strips about one-quarter inch wide. These strips were then spirally wound about a core of yucca-fiber rope, the resulting fur cable being woven by loose twining into a pliant and comfortable blanket. The same technique was used with turkey feathers to produce an equally warm and much lighter-weight garment. The Bandelier people for many years domesticated the wild turkey in order to have an abundant supply of feathers, both for utilitarian and ceremonial garments.

Summer clothing was most conspicuous by its near absence. Since about A. D. 700, however, the Pueblo world had known cotton and had developed considerable skill in weaving it, so that the Frijoles dweller of the 1300's was able to produce such fabric as he required from cotton, which could be obtained by trade with low-country people only 50 miles down the Rio Grande. Weaving techniques have apparently been passed down to the modern Pueblo people from their prehistoric ancestors. Present-day Pueblo men, particularly in the Hopi towns of Arizona, produce cotton blankets, belts, and ceremonial clothing of a very high standard, on looms of the ancient type.

The items of wearing apparel most important to the early people, perhaps, were sandals. In the Southwest it is difficult, if not out of the question, to go barefoot outdoors; even the toughened Indian feet could not have been impervious to cactus spines. A great deal of time and skill was expended, therefore, in the devising of footgear. From the days of the Basketmakers, the sandal most in favor had been woven of yucca, the plant with slender swordlike leaves sometimes known as Spanish-bayonet. Yucca is to be found in one species or another throughout the one-time land of the Pueblos. Such intensive use was made of it by the early people that it is almost surprising that it could have survived. As mentioned previously, yucca was the favorite fiber for cordage, and essentially it was cordage which made up the best types of sandals. A twilled weave of small-diameter cords was carefully shaped to the foot, the edges were neatly bound, then lashings to tie around the ankle and over the toes were made to finish the job. A sole of this sort was durable and had remarkable nonskid qualities, as anyone who has worn modern rope-soled shoes can testify. Cruder, more quickly made sandals were plaited together from the unworked blades of the narrow-leaf yucca, the resulting weave looking rather like modern palm-frond matting.

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