You most likely have or know people that have hammocks or hammock swings. While you are just lying there peacefully and rocking back and forth, have you ever wondered how hammocks came to be? Did you know that early hammocks were actually pieces of furniture rather than recreational products? Sure, us American's are great at making someone's idea better, but understanding the history of hammocks is an interesting piece of the past.
From all accounts it is widely agreed upon that hammocks originated over 1000 years ago in Central America by the Mayan Indians. The Mayans were great visionaries. They are credited with creating a very accurate calendar as well making advances is mathematics and astronomy. Making a hammock 1000 years ago wasn't like going to your local fabric store. The Mayans had to use what was available to them. It is recorded that the earliest hammocks were created out of Hamack tree bark. The bark of a Hamack tree is soft yet tough so it provided the strength needed for support. As the years went on, they started using a plant called Sisal. The Sisal plant was better than Hamack bark since it was easier to find and the plant itself could become more pliable when worked over by hands. The softer material also made the hammocks much more comfortable than the earlier bark version.
The hammock made its way from Central America north via a wide network of trade routes. Hammocks were traded to the north for things like food, fur and building materials. The American Indians were very early adopters of hammocks. It is believed that that early settlers in America stole the hammocks from the Indians as they pushed the Indians out of their homes.
Hammocks very quickly made their way to Europe. The Europeans were said to be the first ones to introduce the cloth hammock. This would be the first fabric made hammock rather than those made from plant and tree material. The European Navy was the first to use hammocks. They used them as beds inside their vessels. They then introduced the hammocks to the general population that ended up using them as their main bed to sleep on. Hammocks were cheap and provided for a comfortable sleeping arrangement.
Back in America, settlers kept improving hammocks. They started using rope as the main supports. They then introduced quilts and thicker fabrics that would provide more comfort and stability. Today hammocks are used more as a luxury for relaxation and outdoor recreation. So next time you are relaxing on a hammock, think about those days 1000 years ago when people used them for survival.
Steve C provides information about portable hammocks through his website on Hammock Swings