Cords and Ropes from Thymelaea and Daphne

פורסם: September 1st, 2007 | עודכן: 16/01/15

[Thymelaea hirsuta]

The bark of this plant (Figs. 1.5.1-1.5.2) contains excellent fibers from which fine strings, thick cords and ropes may be made, for different purposes. This was the first plant that sparked my interest in the use of plants, during a day of “Field Education” in my first military training period. Later, I joined the special unit of instructors who taught this subject in the army. Our commander Captain Noga HaReuveni, who learnt rope-making from the Bedouin, taught us the technique of making rope from the bark of Thymelaea. Its name in Hebrew is from its Arabic name amongst the Bedouin in Israel. The plant is also mentioned in the Bible in the story of Samson and Delilah and the wet ropes that were not dried (Judges 16.7).

Bark removed from a flourishing Thymelaea hirsuta shrub.

Fig. 1.5.1: Bark removed from a flourishing Thymelaea hirsuta shrub.

When handling the plant one must be aware of the chemicals present in it that act as protection against herbivores. Care must be taken not to put the material found in the bark of this plant into your mouth. I once suffered from terrible nausea, caused by holding the bark between my teeth while plying the string.
When touring near Petra, Jordan, I was pleased to meet [Daphne linearifolia], after years of knowing it only from books (Fig. 1.5.8). My joy was even greater when the local Bedouin referred to it by the name “mitnan” and its friend by the name “zignan.” I immediately peeled off the bark and made a string. Members of this plant family also grow in other countries. From every type, I tried (and succeeded) in peeling off the bark and making string. Thus was I able to surprise my colleagues in South Africa and the Canary Islands when I showed them how tales of the ancients in these places who made strings from plants are brought to life.

A flourishing Thymelaea hirsuta shrub. Parts of its bark are a good source of fibers.

Fig. 1.5.2: A flourishing Thymelaea hirsuta shrub. Parts of its bark are a good source of fibers.

Plying of string from bark fibers of Thymelaea hirsuta.

Fig. 1.5.3: Plying of string from bark fibers of Thymelaea hirsuta.

A quick system of rope-plying that requires

Fig. 1.5.4: A quick system of rope-plying that requires “know-how”. Thick rope used for carrying water jugs in N. Sinai.

A water jug carrier of Thymelaea hirsuta fibers on the back of a camel, in N. Sinai.

Fig. 1.5.5: A water jug carrier of Thymelaea hirsuta fibers on the back of a camel, in N. Sinai.

Outfitted with plied Thymelaea rope, the thirsty desert nomad makes his way towards an ancient man-made water cistern identifiable by its white soil-pile.

Fig. 1.5.6: Outfitted with piled Thymelaea rope, the thirsty desert nomad makes his way towards an ancient man-made water cistern identifiable by its white soil-pile.

Fig. 1.5.7: Where is the drink that can compete with water in the desert?

Daphne linearifolia, a tree or shrub endemic to Edom, called in the area

Fig. 1.5.8: Daphne linearifolia, a tree or shrub endemic to Edom, called in the area “mitnan”. Ropes are prepared from these bark fibers.

Fig. 1.5.9: Young Daphne stems and their peeled bark strips ready for plying rope or string.

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