When I first saw the wall label for the Hawk’s Hood, I thought to myself, “Wait, they actually put hats on their birds? This must be the predecessor for dressing up your chihuahua, right?” The latter inquiry proved to be very false. Through search engines, I found that the hood for a raptor (a bird of prey) is the most crucial piece of equipment in training. The purpose of the hood is to calm the bird by covering its eyesight. Birds are so visually-based that what they cannot see does not frighten them. Therefore, if they cannot see anything they are not frightened at all.
The pom-pom decoration at the top may seem to suit a completely aesthetic purpose. However, it also serves as a useful point of contact for the falconer to adjust the hood. There are distinctions between adornments on each hood and the cut of the material, which the falconer would have chosen based on aesthetics and training preferences. Falconers today have named all different types of hoods by the region that they come from, such as Arab or Dutch hoods. This hawk’s hood follows in the Arab style braces, meaning that the back of the hood is pulled together in an accordion-like manner.
The hawk’s hood is made primarily of velvet, a material traditionally associated with nobility. Most modern examples of Arab hoods are made of leather. This difference in material is not surprising. Velvet was created in Kashmir, near modern-day Afghanistan, and was introduced to the Middle East during the reign of Harun al-Rashid (ruled 786 to 809). The Mamluk dynasty brought the largest velvet production from Cairo to Iraq in the 18th century.
This object is the epitome of where the future of museums should be directed. With a half an hour or so of research, an object as tiny as a hat for a bird can open up a world of trade and training halfway around the globe. Hopefully this object will spark many more conversations and projects to make collections as large as the Kienbusch Collection more accessible to the public.
Upton, Roger. Falconry: Principles & Practice. London: & C Black, 1991. Print.
Folsach, Kjeld Von., and Anne-Marie Keblow. Bernsted. Woven Treasures:
Textiles from the World of Islam. Copenhagen: David Collection, 1993. Print.