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Artifact of the Week: Palm-Leaf Hat

Where do you think this hat is from?

What is it made of?

Who would have worn it?


Where do you think this hat is from? What is it made of?

This hat was purchased on a voyage around the South Seas / Polynesia by Dr Karshner and his wife Ella in the 1920s. Unfortunately the precise point of origin was not recorded, but its similarity to Filipino salakot gives us a good clue to its most likely source. This hat is a good reminder that cultural items can be hard to pin down geographically because, over time, trade and communication sometimes lead to overlaps in cultural expression. While the Philippines are not technically considered a part of Polynesia, some scientists believe ancient mariners populated Polynesia either originally from or after settling the Philippines.

Who would have worn it?

Conical hats such as this one, whether from Southeast Asia or the Philippines, have traditionally been worn by anyone needing refuge from the glaring sun or the pounding rain. But protection from the elements is not the only use for such a popular accessory: they have been used as fans against the heat, and they have been decorated with colors and patterns during festivities. The traditional conical hat is also considered to be the direct inspiration for the European colonial pith helmet.

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