1886.1.254 .1

Woven cushion-cover.

Place details: AFRICA. Congo, Democratic Republic of / Angola / Cultural Group: Kongo: Local Name: Unknown. Materials: Raffia Leaf Plant / Pigment / Plant Leaf / ?. Processes: Woven / Dyed / Painted / ?. Dimensions: L = 470 mm W = 240 mm Field Collector: Unknown When Collected: By 1656? Other Owners: Possibly Tradescant collection; if so, then: by 1656 John Tradescant (the Younger); by 1662, Hester Tradescant; by 1678, Elias Ashmole; from 1683, Ashmolean Museum. [JC 19 9 2013] PRM Source: Ashmolean Museum Acquired: Transferred 1 December 1886

KEYWORD: Cushion / Bag / Status Object / CLASS: Textile / Furniture Dwelling / Bag / Status / ?.

Object description: Woven cushion-cover. Rectangle with bobble at four corners. (Lorraine Rostant 07/08/95) [CAR 22/08/2008]

Publications history, trails & websites: Possibly listed on page 53 of Museum Tradescantianum, Or a Collection of Rarities Preserved at South-Lambeth neer London, by John Tradescant (London, 1656), where there is an entry reading: 'a table-cloath of grasse very curiously waved'. [JC 27 2 1996; JC 11 9 2007; JC 19 9 2013]

Illustrated (detail only) in black and white as plate xix (with caption) in African Design, by Margaret Trowell (London: Faber and Faber, 1960) (copy in RDF). Caption (same pag): 'Detail of pile cloth. Probably the old kingdom of Congo. Lower Congo. Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford. - The darker parts of this design are formed by embroidering the areas with finely shredded, dyed raffia, every stitch of which is cut off close to the surface giving a texture like pile velvet. In the lighter spaces in between the pattern is made by diaper weaving in natural coloured raffia. This cloth was collected before 1883, and is thought to have formed part of the Tradescant collection, acquired in the seventeeth century.' [JC 27 2 1996, 23 4 2013] The illustration seems to be a detail of the PRM image PR327Q. [JC 16 6 1999]

Listed as entry 359 on page 340 of 'Ethnological Specimens in the Pitt Rivers Museum attributed to the Tradescant Collection', by Lynne Williamson, in Tradescant's Rarities: Essays on the Foundation of the Ashmolean Museum 1683 with a Catalogue of the Surviving Early Collections, ed. Arthur MacGregor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983), pp. 338−45. The entry takes the form of an edited transcription of the entry in the 'List of Anthropological objects transferred from the Ashmolean to the Pitt Rivers' museum 1886' (for which, see under ‘Primary Documentation’), with metric dimensions: '359. BAG (1886 no. 254a). "A bag, or cushion cover? of exceedingly fine woven grass, in a kind of raised pattern much resembling plush, the colours being different shades of brown, the pattern being in lozenges and formed by the ends of the material projecting upright and cut very close. There is a border of little knobs all round the edge and four larger ones at the corners made in the same manner. Both the outer sides have the same pattern, but the inside is plain light brown. Locality uncertain, but probably Eastern. Length 470 mm, Width 242 mm." 1656 p. 1: Purses of the barks and rinds of tree, or, 1656 p. 53: A Table-cloath of grass very curiously waved.' Also discussed on page 339: 'No 359, finely woven bag or cushion cover: this has been identified as a chief's cloth from the Old Kingdom of the Congo. The technique of manufacture is cut-pile embroidery on plain-weave raffia cloth with an embroidery design taking the form of interlocking lozenges. The distribution of this special type of cloth near the mouth of the Congo River in the early eighteenth century increases the possibility that contact and trade with Europeans did occur as early as Tradescant's time.' [JC 27 2 1996, 22 4 2013, 17 9 2013]

Illustrated in black and white and briefly discussed (anonymously by Jeremy Coote) on the back page of Pitt Rivers News, no. 4 [wrongly printed as no. 3], (Summer 1994) (copy in RDF). [JC 27 2 1996]

Discussed by Hilde Van Braeckel in her review of the Kuba Textiles exhibition held at the PRM in 1995 (see above) in Arachne [Antwerp], Vol. XIV, no. 2 (1995), pp. 8-9 (copy in RDF). [JC, undated; JC 11 9 2007]

Illustrated in colour as 4.47 on page 275 of Africa: The Art of a Continent, ed. Tom Phillips (London: Royal Academy / Munich, New York: Prestel, 1995). See catalogue entry on page 275 by 'JC,HvB' [Jeremy Coote and Hilde van Braeckel] (photocopy in RDF). [JC 20 3 1996]

Illustrated (presumably in colour) on page 88 (and discussed briefly on page 89) of 'Art of the Unknown', by Nicholas Purdon, a review of the Royal Academy exhibition (see above), in Hali, no. 84 (January/February 1996), pp. 88-9 (photocopy in RDF). [JC 20 3 1996]

Illustrated in colour as 4.47 on page 275 of Afrika: Die Kunst eines Kontinents, edited by Tom Phillips (Berlin: Zeitgeist-Gesellscahft e.V. / Munich, New York: Prestel, 1996). See catalogue entry on page 275 by 'JC,HvB' [Jeremy Coote and Hilde van Braeckel] (this is a translation of the text published in the Royal Academy's catalogue - see above). [JC 20 3 1996]

Illustrated in colour as 49 on pages 104-5 of Africa: The Art of a Continent - 100 Works of Power and Beauty (New York: Guggenheim Museum, 1996). See catalogue entry on page 104 by 'JXC,HVB' [Jeremy Coote and Hilde Van Braeckel] (this is a revised version of the text published in the Royal Academy's catalogue - see above). Copy in RDF. [JC 24 6 1996]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 12.20 on page 525 of A World History of Art (5th edn), by Hugh Honour and John Fleming (London: Laurence King, 1999). The authors briefly discuss the tradition and this example (also on page 525): '...a number of early seventeenth-century raffia palm fibre cloths from the kingdom of Kongo have been by chance preserved in a climate more favourable than that of equatorial Africa. One [i.e. the PRM piece], probably a cushion for the royal throne, is no less distinguished for its sophisticated design than for the technical accomplishment of its weaving with a subtle combination of smooth areas and pile tufts.' [JC 17 9 1999]

Illustrated in black and white as figure 11.3 on page 367 of A History of Art in Africa, by Monica Blackmun Visonà, Robin Poynor, Herbert M. Cole, and Michael D. Harris (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2001). Caption (same page) reads: 'Textile. Kongo. Early 17th century. Raffia, 91/2 x 281/4" (24 x 72 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford.' Note that the longer of the two dimensions is wrong. It should be 18 1/2 inches (47 cm). Accompanying text (pages 367/8) reads: 'A beautiful textile made of raffia fibre was collected in Kongo in the seventeenth century.... Such luxurious cloths were produced by a special weaving technique that created patterns of raised lozenges, some of which / were snipped after the weaving was completed to create a plush or pile effect. Most such cloths are monochrome, but here color has been applied to create a two-toned design.' This is accompanied by a reproduction of a wood-engraving (circa 1668) illustrating the use of textiles in the Kongo court. (Photocopy in RDF.) [JC 24 8 2000]

Reproduced in black and white as Figure 27 on page xxxi of African Art and Artefacts in European Collections 1400-1800, by Ezio Bassani (edited by Macolm McLeod) (London: British Museum Press, for the Trustees of the British Museum, 2000). Also reproduced as Figure 207 on page 52; caption (same page) reads: Double pile cloth with geometric decoration and tassels.' The cushion-cover features as item number 207 in Bassani's 'catalogue' under the heading 'London Tradescant collection'. The entry (page 52) reads: '207 Double pile cloth with geometric decoration and tassels. Ethnic group: Kongo. Provenance: Angola? present-day Dem. Rep. of Congo? Rep. of Congo?. Materials/size: Raphia-palm fibre, 24 x 47 cm. Present location: Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, inv. no. 1979 [sic; actually 1886.1.254.1]. Acquired in 1886 from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Arrival in Europe: 1601-50? Quotations and remarks: Tradescant 1656, 53 'A table-cloath of grasse, very curiously waved'. Part of the pattern is coloured in dark brown and black, contrary to other known Kongo pile-cloths. In my opinion the colouring was applied at a later date. The description 'table cloth very curiously waved' recalls the 'very artistic table cloth' ('tafeldecken') made in Angola, recorded at the same period in the Museum Weickmannianun, Ulm (see entry no. 445 [page 127]). See the chapter on Kongo art [pp. 277-84]. References: Cornet [sic; actually Coote - see above] and van Braeckel 1995, no. 4.47; Table-Cloath 1995 [sic; actually 1994].' [JC 17 5 2001]

Illustrated in colour as figure 13-16 on page 437 of Chapter 13 'Art of Ancient Africa' in Volume 1 of Art History (3rd edn), by Marilyn Stokstad (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson / PrenticeHall, 2008), pp. 420-39. Caption (same page) reads: '13-16. DECORATED TEXTILE. Kongo. Early 17th century. Raffia, 9 1/2 x 28 1/4" (24 x 72 cm) [dimensions are wrong]. Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, England. This exquisitely embroidered [sic] textile employs a special technique that resembles velour to the touch.' In the text opposite (page 436), it is mentioned that 'Kongo-decorated textiles were lauded by the Portuguese from first contact and were accepted as gifts or collected and found their way into European museum collections.' (Copy in RDF.) [JC 2 4 2010]

Illustrated in colour as illustration number 64 on page 44 of Kongo Art's History and its World Perception, 3000BC-2003AD, by Jiunshyan Lee et al. (Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, 2005). Caption (same page) reads: 'ill. 64 Woven and embroidered Kongo raffia textile brought from Kongo in the 17C'. Accompanying text (page 45) reads: 'The Portuguese were so impressed with the quality of Kongo crafts that they exported them to Europe...'. [JC 10 8 2010]

Illustrated in colour as illustration number 1.22 on page 64 of Kongo Kingdom Art: From Ritual to Cutting Edge, by Jiunshyan Lee et al. (Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts, 2005). Caption (same page) reads: 'ill. 1.22 16 C Kongo pile-cloth cushion 16C'. Accompanying text (same page) reads: 'The Portuguese were looking for gold or other valuable goods; however, these were not available. They thus exported to Europe goods that they could find in Kongo including superb raffia textiles (ill. 1.22)...'. [JC 26 4 2013]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 13-15 on page 420 of Art History, by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren (4th edn; Boston etc.: Prentice Hall, 2011). Caption (same page): ‘Figure 13-15. DECORATED TEXTILE | From Kongo. Early 17th century CE. Raffia, 9½ x 18½  (24 x 47 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, England.’ Related text: ‘Kongo decorated textiles were lauded by the Portuguese from first contact and were accepted as gifts or collected and found their way into European museum collection.’ [JC 21 7 2014]

Illustrated in colour as figure 14-19 on page 426 of Chapter 14 'Early African Art' in Art History, by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren (5th edn; Boston etc.: Pearson, 2014), pp. 420-39. Caption (same page) reads: '14-19. DECORATED TEXTILE. Kongo. Before 1400 CE. Raffia, 9½ x 18½ (24 x 47 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, England.' In the adjacent text (same page), it is mentioned that 'Kongo DECORATED TEXTILES were lauded by the Portuguese from first contact and were accepted as gifts or collected, eventually finding their way into European museum collections.' [JC 15 7 2014]

Illustrated in colour and discussed in detail throughout 'A Text-Book Textile at the Pitt Rivers Museum: Historiographical Notes on a Kongo Cushion-Cover, its Canonical Status, Dating, and Provenance', by Jeremy Coote, in African Arts, Vol. 48, no. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 66-77. [JC 4 2 2015]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 202 on page 156 of 'Out of Kongo and into the Kunstakammer', by Alisa LaGamma, with contributions by Christine Guintini, in Kongo: Power and Majesty, by Alisa LaGamma (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2015), pp. 131-59. Caption (same page): 'fig. 102. Luxury Cloth: Cushion Cover. Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola, 17th-18th century, inventoried 1883. Raffia, pigment, 91/2 x 181/2 in. (24 x 47 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (1886.1.254.1) (Exhib.).' Also listed on page 288 in 'Works in the Exhibition': 'Fig. 102. Luxury Cloth: Cushion Cover. Kongo peoples; Kongo Kingdom, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, or Angola, 17th-18th century, inventoried 1883. Raffia, pigment, 91/2 x 181/2 in. (24 x 47 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford (1886.1.254.1) | Ex-collection: John Tradescant the Elder (ca. 1570s-1638) and his son John Tradescant the Younger (1608-1662), may have been inventoried, 1656 ("Purses of the barks and rinds of tree" or "A Table-cloath of grass very curiously waved") (?); Elias Ashmole (1617-1692); transferred to the University of Oxford, 1677; founding collection of the Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, 1683 (?), inventoried 1883 ("Perhaps Tradescant"); transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum, December 1, 1886'. Images of the cloth have also been used for the inside front and back covers and for end papers. Accompanying text (page 156): 'OXFORD | About the same time that Weickmann was compiling his collection [in Ulm], an English antiquary likely received a celebrated Kongo cushion cover, now in the collection of the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford (fig. 102). The double-sided cushion cover is striking for the way the pile has been cut to accentuate graphic design elements and for the unusual use of colorants applied after weaving. The classic over-and-under interlace has been interpreted as a series of repeated and congruent branching bands, horizontally arrayed and enclosing large interstitial diamonds. The two elements carry equal visual weight and complement each other. This work was transferred from the Ashmolean Museum to the newly formed Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886. Its earliest inventory record is an 1883 catalogue entry prepared in anticipation of the transfer of the museum's ethnographic collections. / The cushion cover may originally have been part of the Tradescant collection. John Tradescant the Elder (ca. 1570s-1638) and his son, John (1608-1662), were both botanists whose collection was acquired by Elias Ashmole (1617-1692). The catalogue John the Younger published in 1656, Museum Tradescantianum, includes two entries that may possibly relate to this work: "Purses of the barks and rinds of tree" and "A Table-cloath of grass very curiously waved." In 1677 Ashmole transferred the Tradescant holdings together with his own collections to Oxford University. An alternative theory posits that, in light of the undocumented Tradescant provenance, the cushion may have been amongst those works given to the Ashmolean by the antiquarian collector Richard Rawlinson (1690-1775), who traveled to coastal Africa during the 1720s.' NB The reference here to Rawlinson travelling to coastal Africa during the 1720s is a misinterpretation of Coote's reference on page 75 of his 'A Text-Book Textile at the Pitt Rivers Museum: Historiographical Notes on a Kongo Cushion-Cover, its Canonical Status, Dating, and Provenance' (in African Arts, Vol. 48, no. 1 (Spring 2015), pp. 66-77) to Rawlinson's 'travels on the continent in the early 1720s', by which Coote meant not the continent of Africa, but Europe. [JC 30 9 2015]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 164 on page 174 of 'Made in Africa: West African Luxury Goods for Lisbon's Markets', by Kate Lowe, in The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon, edited by Annemarie Jordan Gschwend and K. J. P. Lowe (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2015), pp. 163–77. Caption (same page): 'FIG. 164 Kongo, Cushion cover, c. 1360–1436, raffia palm fibre, 24 x 47 cm, Oxford, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, inv. no. 1886.1.254.1'. Also discussed on page 175: 'A rectangular cushion cover from the Pitt Rivers Museum at the University of Oxford with an arresting geometrical lozenge pattern, probably originating from the area of Kongo around the Congo River estuary, is similarly made of raffia fibre. Pom-poms at its four corners are matched by much smaller pom-pom around its whole perimeter, except for an opening on one of its shorter sides..... Three shades of colour are used on its cloth—light tan, deep gold and very dark brown or black. The patterns are the result of a weaving technique rather than one of cut-pile embroidery, thus differentiating it from Kuba textiles of the nineteenth and twentieth century—produced hundreds of miles away during a later period—which can appear similar. The pattern is repeated on both sides of the cloth; the design is recognisably Kongolese, but rare, only two other textiles being known of similar design. It is not known whether cushions were in use in Kongo before the advent of the Portuguese, although this now seems very likely, even if they may not originally have been used on seats or in other European ways. A reference to much later use in Kongo was recorded in 1622 by a Jesuit who reported that a cushion (almofada) had been used by King Álvaro of Kongo as a kneeler in church. What form these cushion covers took before the arrival of the Portuguese under Diogo Cão in the 1480s is also unclear. The terminology is not easy to interpret. The Case de Guiné's treasurer's account book for 1504–05 records many bags (saquinhos or sacos) being imported, the larger ones by ships’ captains..., but it is not certain—although it is possible—that some of these corresponded to the bags now believed to be cushion covers. The earliest secure reference to a cushion from the Kongo (the exact phrase is “quoxi de Manuquoguio”, a cushion from Manicongo) appears in the 1507 post-mortem inventory of Álvaro Borges, who died on the island of São Tomé, in which three such cusions are mentioned.... Radiocarbon dating has been carried out on the Pitt Rivers cusion cover with startling results, fixing the date of the rafia fibre at AD 1360–1436. This seems to indicate that the cushion cover existed in its present form at least 50 years before the arrival of the Portuguese, as the alternative—that the raffia fibre existed in a cut but unworked state for 50 years—is far less likely. How the cushion cover arrived in Oxford remains unclear. It may have formed part of the Tradescant collection of the early seventeenth century, which later passed to the Ashmolean Museum (and the cushion cover definitely passed from the Ashmolean to what became the Pitt Rivers in 1886); or it may have reached Oxford before the pieces in the Tradescant collection. A final intriguing possibility is that it was left to the University of Oxford by the antiquarian Richard Rawlinson.’ [JC 31 12 2015]

Illustrated in colour on page 125 of 'Têxteis da África Ocidental na Lisboa renascentista: Descriçao e padroes', by K[ate] L[owe], in A Cidade Global: Lisboa no Renascimento / The Global City: Lisbon in the Renaissance (Lisbon: Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga / Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, 2017), pp. 124-6. Caption (same page): 'CAT. 57 | Forro de coxim | Reino do Congo | 1360-1436 | Tecido de fibra de råfia | 24 x 47 cm | Oxford, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, inv. 1886.1.254.1'. The same information as in the caption appears on page 130 in the list of 'Obras Expostas'. The catalogue also includes an English translation of the text: 'Textiles from West Africa in Renaissance Lisbon: Design and Depiction', by by K[ate] L[owe], in A Cidade Global: Lisboa no Renascimento / The Global City: Lisbon in the Renaissance (Lisbon: Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga / Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda, 2017), pp. 295-7. This is not illustrated, though the object is listed on page 299 in the list of 'Exhibited Works': '57. | Cushion cover | Kingdom of the Kongo | 1360-1436 | Raffia fibre | 24 x 47 cm | Oxford, University of Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, inv. 1886.1.254.1'. (Photocopies of relevant pages in RDF.) [FB 2/5/2017; JC 3 10 2017]

Illustrated in colour as Figure 13.2 on page 145 of Le massif de Lovo, sur les traces du royaume de Kongo, Volume 1, by Geoffroy Heimlich (Cambridge Monographs in African Archaeology, 95), (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2017). (Downloadable online at http://www.archaeopress.com/ArchaeopressShop/Public/download.asp?id={0D455D03-47F3-4E6D-BC5F-EDA7E6731271} .) Caption (same page): 'Figure 13.2. Tissu d’origine kongo daté entre le 14e et le 15e siècle, Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, n° 1886.1.254.1 (© Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, Photo Malcolm Osman, référence de la photo : 0001427585546).' Also referred to on page 144: 'Arrivé en Europe probablement pendant la première moitié du 17e siècle, un tissu d’origine kongo, conservé aujourd’hui au Pitt Rivers Museum, a été daté par la méthode du radiocarbone de 552 ± 38 BP, soit entre cal AD 1327 et 1454148 (Figure 13.2).' [JC 19 9 2017]

Illustrated in colour as figure 14–19 on page 432 of Chapter 14 ‘Arts of Africa to the Sixteenth Century’ in Art History, by Marilyn Stokstad and Michael W. Cothren (6th edn; Upper Saddle River: Pearson, 2018), pp. 412–39. Caption (same page) reads: '14–19. WOVEN AND CUT-PILE TEXTILE / Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kongo, before 1400 CE. Raffia, 18½ x 9½ (47 x 24 cm). Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, England. (1886.1.254.1).' This textile was dated by the Pitt Rivers Museum using carbon-14 analysis. When the textile first came into the museum’s collection in 1886, its earliest documentation was a brief mention in a 1656 catalogue that may or may not have referred to this specific textile. Until carbon-14 dating was used in the twentieth century, this textile could only be dated as a “seventeenth-century” object. Carbon-14 dating proved that the textile was much older and had in fact been made before 1400.’ Also dicussed in the accompanying text on pages 432–3: ‘Along with items made for trade, artists working for the kings of Kongo excelled at making luxury items for royal use. Textile squares, carved wooden cups, and / woven hats and garments formed the bulk of this industry. The textile seen here is a rare early example of one such royal item, and would have been highly prized by royal and elite individuals alike. [np] A 1508 account of Kongo textiles by Portuguese sea-captain Duarte Pacheco Pereira indicates how much these items were appreciated in Europe: “In the kingdom of the Congo they produce cloth from palm fibers with velvet-like pile of such beauty that better ones are not made in Italy.” [np] Woven of raffia fiber with both raised and plushed bands and embroidered decorations, this small square was most likely made to serve two purposes: a vaulable form of currency and a small section of a larger wearable garment. [np] In the textile’s lightest bands, called “streets,” the design was achieved by embroidering raffia fibers in a simple whipstitch pattern. The diamond or lozenge shapes, or “blocks,” created between the lighter “streets” were embroidered in raffia dyed a darker colour. The darkest colour on the textile, used to form a border around the “streets,” is done in a plush pile technique. Raffia fibers dyed a dark brown are pushed through from the back of the textile and then cut close to the surface to form a velvet-like pile. This gives the textile depth as well as visual contrast. [np] The primary symbol of the Kongo religion is a cosmogram, a cross shape within a diamond, usually with four circles drawn at each point of the diamond. This cosmogram is visible in the patterns of “streets” on this textile. The cosmogram represents the “Four Moments of the Sun”; the points on the diamond represent sunrise, midday, sunset, and night. These points also represent the four cardinal directions (north, south, east, and west) and four life stages (birth, adulthood, death and ancestry / rebirth). Royal textiles such as this used cosmogram imagery to stress the kingdom’s spirituality and the divine right of its kings to rule.’ [JC 3 8 2018]

Research notes: Analysed by Hilde Van Braeckel in an unpublished 'Dossier: Kongo Cut-Pile Cloths' (1995) (copy of relevant page in RDF). [JC 27 5 1996]

A similar object is in the collections of the Náprstek Museum in Prague. Formerly part of the collection of Emperor Rudolf II, it was apparently first recorded in 1607. See page 128 of 'Short History of the African Collections and African Exhibitions in the Náprstek Museum, Prague', by Josef Kandert, in Annals of the Náprstek Museum, Vol. XX (1999), pp. 119-38. (Photocopy in RDF.) [JC 9 9 1999]

A sample of fibres from this object was microscopically examined by Tim Lawrence at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in November 2000. His report, in a letter dated 21 November 2000, is filed in the RDF: 'We have now microscopically examined the sample of vegetable fibre thought to be "raffia" = Raphia species, family Arecaceae (formerly known as family Palmae).... The sample consists of narrow longitudinal strips of leaves of a monocotyledon and possesses anatomical characters in common with our reference material of Raphia species such as the shapes of the epiderma cells, stomatal subsidiary cells and mesophyll cells, and also the presence of what are apparently silica bodies in special cells, known as stegmata in Arecaceae, adjacent to the fibrous sheaths of the vascular bundles. We are, however, unable to entirely rule out the possibility that your material originates from leaves of a member of a different genus of Arecaceae of from another monocotyledenous family possessing silica bodies such as Cyperaceae (sedges etc.). The material clearly does not not originate form a grass, family Poaceae (members of which also possess silica bodies), because it lacks short epidermal cells characteristic of the latter.' [JC 24 11 2000, 26 4 2013]

On 26 June 2001, a sample of 8 or 9 strands (1 cm or so in length) was taken from the loose tufts at the opening at one end of the cushion by Tom Higham of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art. These are to be used for radio-carbon dating. [JC 6 6 2001]

On 7 December 2001, Tom Higham of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art wrote with the results of the radiocarbon dating (see above), which can be summarized as 552+/-38 BP (with BP being AD1950), i.e. AD 1398+/-38 (i.e. AD 1360-1436); see RDF for correspondence and report of results. [JC 11/12/2001, 11 9 2007]

Analysed by Jeremy Coote in african arts, 2015, Vol 48:1, 'A text-book textile at the Pitt Rivers museum: Historiographical notes on a Kongo Cushion-Cover, its canonical status, dating, and provenance.' See RDF for a copy of the relevant pages. [AFS [OPS move] 8/11/2018]