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History of Hammocks

hammock history



History of Hammocks

Hammocks have been in use for hundreds of years around the world, providing a comfortable and safe place to relax and sleep. Styles and construction methods have changed over time, but the basis of the hammock remains the same.

The original hammocks may have been made of a variety of different materials and probably didn’t look quite like the hammocks you are familiar with today. One of the earliest instances of a hammock-like structure is described by Plutarch who wrote that a politician of his era (around 400 BC) had his bed hung from ropes, and other writers of the time explain that hanging a bed from ropes was a sure way to improve your sleep and health.

By the 1300s, hammocks were known in England in a form more familiar. Hanging beds that look similar to modern hammocks were used in homes, made of canvas. Hammocks soon reached the sea and were in use by the British navy, but other European navies were not aware of this development. 

It is interesting to note what happened between 1300 and 1600 AD. Columbus travelled to the New World in the late 1400s, and discovered the natives slept in similar constructions that were made with netting rather than canvas.

Columbus noted that these sleeping nets were called hamacas – which means nets – and the name developed from that word. When Columbus returned home, the Caribbean hammock came with him, and became very popular with navies across Europe.

Eventually, all such structures became known as hammocks – even though the Royal Navy continued to refer to them as “hanging cabbons or beddes” until at least 1597! The Royal Navy’s variety were made from canvas and provided a great solution for sleeping in the limited space available onboard ships. And of course, when sleeping was over, they could be rolled up and stashed away to free up even more space.

Old Hammock Picture

Furthermore, they were safer than traditional beds, as the sides wrapped around the occupant to keep them secure. When seas were rough it was easy for sailors to roll out of bed and be injured, or even be killed. A secure sleeping environment was certainly helpful, even if slightly trickier to get in and out of compared to an ordinary bed.

Back in the New World, hammocks were popular across the whole continent. Central and South America found hammocks to be very useful as they kept the sleeper far above ground, limiting the number of animals and bugs that could bite and transmit diseases. The Brazilian hammock features a deep sag and can accommodate two people, and the original versions were again not made of canvas.

Brazilian hammocks were originally woven from tree bark or plant fibres, offering great protection against animals and the elements. Modern variants are made from cotton, which is comfortable, breathable, and durable. Brazilian hammocks both ancient and modern were made in a variety of styles and decorating your hammock with tassels or fringes would be common.

Hammocks seem to have arrived in Brazil via Mexico and the Mayan civilization, but more recently than you might expect. There is little evidence for the use of hammocks anywhere in the Americas outside of the West Indies prior to 1300AD.

For naval situations, the plainer the hammock the better, but for ordinary people living their lives, the choices remained wide open.

In the present day, modern hammocks are made from both modern and traditional materials, some designed for camping, mountaineering and other more extreme forms of travel.  Others can be plain, or multicoloured and decorated with as many tassels and fringes as you desire.

The only constant is the comfort that hammocks offer along with sleep that cannot be matched.

Our Brazilian style hammocks bring both comfort and a stylish look to any garden, patio or deck and are equally suitable for interior hanging  in case you want to lounge all year round.