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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Cape: Interpreting the Symbol and Garment in Greece and Polynesia

Two different types of cape are presented in this article: the feather cape of Hawaii and the shepherd’s cape of Greece, dissimilar dresses not only in appearance and qualities, but also in their social symbolism.

The Hawaiian cape – the making of which requires not only feathers but also special talent and religious belief – is a symbol of great social and spiritual power, worn only by the chief of the tribe and those who deserve it, due to their excellent performance in war. On the other hand, the Greek shepherd’s cape is a simple, practical garment, is made of wool and is worn by common villagers, especially those who work outdoors, under tough weather conditions, it is waterproof and worm, but also heavy and not quite flexible. This kind of cape is mostly found in mountainous regions, where cattle breeding and wood cutting are the main financial sources.

Although the Hawaiian feather cape has undergone changes through the centuries, under the baneful influence of the European conquerors, and has finally disappeared, the shepherd’s cape in Greece is still in use, essentially unaffected in function, properties and symbolism in its age-long course.