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Matses Warrior

Matsés Indian Tribe

The Cat People - Page 4 of 5

While many other Amazonian tribes use blowguns to hunt, the Matsés are specialists in the use of bows and arrows. Formerly, they were used for war, but presently are only used for hunting game. Arrows measure about two meters in length and very complex workmanship is involved in their manufacture. The arrow shaft is constructed from a cane that they cultivate in their gardens. After drying, the cane shafts are decorated with cotton string and a special golden colored grass. The fletching commonly consists of "paujil" (curassow, Mitu tuberosa) feathers, but eagle, condor, vulture, and macaw feathers are also used. The feather is split in two, trimmed and attached to the shaft with a resin and beeswax mixture. Then the feather is sewn to the shaft with fine thread obtained from the trunk of plantain trees. In order to insure that the trajectory of the arrow is straight, the Matsés attach the feathers with a slight spiral, a feature that is lacking in the arrow construction of most other Amazonian tribes. Arrow points are made from a wild bamboo and attached to the main arrow shaft with another short shaft of wood. Therefore, the arrow actually consists of three pieces: the main cane shaft, the bamboo arrow point, and the connecting wooden shaft. A mixture of resin and beeswax is used to attach the three pieces which are also tied with cotton thread and decorated with red "achiote" dye. To keep the arrows sharp, a paca (Agouti paca) tooth sharpener mounted on a peach palm (Bactris gasipaes) shaft is always carried by the hunter while in the rainforest. Matsés arrows are incredible works of art and craftsmanship.


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