Stradivarius in the jungle: Traditional knowledge and the use of "Black beeswax" among the yuqui of the Bolivian Amazon
Abbreviated Journal Title
cultural uses of beeswax; black beeswax; arrow cement; Yuqui Indians; Indigenous Amazonians; CHEMICAL-COMPOSITION; STINGLESS BEE; PROPOLIS; Anthropology; Environmental Studies; Sociology
Native Amazonians traditionally use two methods to feather, or fletch, arrows-they either tie feathers to the shaft or use an adhesive. This paper discusses the latter method, analyzing the use of "black beeswax" arrow cement, derived from an insect product, the wax-resin cerumen of native stingless bees (Meliponini). Such mixtures of beeswax and plant resins, prepared by cooking, have a long history of human use in the Old World: in encaustic painting, beaumontage for furniture repair, sealing waxes, and varnishes for fine musical instruments. This study explores the special properties of meliponine cerumen, containing a resin compound, geopropolis, which makes an excellent arrow cement. Like their Old World counterparts, native Amazonians discovered that cooking a mixture of cerumen and plant resins from bee nests produces an adhesive that dries to a hard finish. We compare both raw and cooked samples of cerumen with infra-red spectroscopy. The wax-resin compound yields adhesive material that is tough, flexible, and has many qualities of both sealing wax and varnish. The Yuqui of the Bolivian Amazon provided the cerumen samples for this analysis, and we describe their methods of preparing and applying arrow cement. We also discuss how social change and globalization negatively affect Yuqui traditional knowledge, which survives, in this case, largely because there is a modest market for bows and arrows in the tourist trade.
"Stradivarius in the jungle: Traditional knowledge and the use of "Black beeswax" among the yuqui of the Bolivian Amazon" (2008). Faculty Bibliography 2000s. 1011.