Be wary of web sites which suggest bark paper comes from strangler fig

 

Amate trees are so well known as a “strangler fig” that too many web sites mistakenly think that bark paper comes from these species. We have a tabulation of roughly 20 of the main species of ficus on our www.maya-ethnobotany.org where you can see which species are used for which purposes.


Plus, there are many many different trees, which are not amate (not Ficus species whatsoever) which can also be used to make paper.


Codices of the Aztec, Mixtec, and Maya were made of deer hide, amate bark paper, and other materials. The surviving Maya codices are bark paper.


Figs for eating are not native to Mesoamerica

 

So no fig newtons for the Maya or Aztec, though I would want to double check whether pre-columbian people perhaps did eat at least some of the fig species. The fig trees in Mesoamerica produce fruits by the ton, but are not used by most local people today; at most they feed the figs to cattle or pigs.


Introductory Bibliography to Amate Trees (Ficus species) of Mesoamerica

 

  • BERG, Cornelis C.
  • 2001
  • Moreae, Artocarpeae, and Dorstenia (Moraceae), with Introductions to the Family and Ficus and with Additions and Corrections to Flora Neotropica Monograph 7. Flora Neotropica Monograph 83: 1–346
  • Burger, W. C.
  • 1977
  • Moraceae. Fieldiana Botany 40:94–215.
  • Condit, I. J.
  • 1947
  • The Fig. Chronica Botanica Co., Waltham, Mass.
  • Condit, I. J. .
  • 1955
  • Fig Varieties: A Monograph. Hilgardia: 11: 323-538
  • DRUMMOND, J.
  • 1991
  • Determining and processing quality parameters in geographic information systems
  • GRANDTNER, M. M.
  • 2005
  • Revision of the genus Dahlia (Compositae, Heliantheae-Coreopsidineae), Rhodora 71: 309-365, 367-416.


  • Pages 358-360 list dozens of Ficus species for Mesoamerica.
  • PENNINGTON, T. D. and J. SARUKAHN
  • 2005
  • Árboles tropicales de México. Manual para la identificación de las principales especies, tercera edición. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México y Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, D. F. p. 142–145.
  • SANDVD, K, at al.
  • 1992
  • Bark, the formation, characteristics, and uses of bark around the world. Timber Press.
  • STANDLEY, P. C.
  • 1917
  • The Mexican and Central American species of Ficus. Contributions from the United States National Herbarium 20:1–35.
  • STANDLEY, P. C.
  • 1922
  • Trees and shrubs of Mexico. Contribution of the United Sates National Herbarium 23:171–516.

Bibliography on bark paper from amate

 

  • AMTIH, Jonathan D.
  • 1972
  • Witchcraft and Pre-Columbian Paper. Ediciones Euroamericanans Klaus Thiele, México, D.F.
  • BODIL, Christensen and Samuel MARTI
  • 1977
  • Moraceae. Fieldiana Botany 40:94–215.
  • FREDERICK, Jennie
  • 2004
  • Lacandon Maya Bark Cloth: Hu’un’, in Hand Papermaking 19/2 (2004), pp. 23-30.
  • GALLINIER, J.
  • 1979
  • Les Indies Otomis. (ed.). Collection Etudes Mesoamericaines II. Mision Arqueologica y Etnológica Francesa en Mexico. Mexico.
  • GALLINIER, J.
  • 1987
  • Pueblos de la Sierra Madre. Etnografía de la comunidad otomí (Colección Clásicos de la an- tropología. Instituto nacional Indigenista-Centro francés de estudios mexicanos y Centroamericanos. México.
  • GARTNER, B.
  • 1995
  • Plant stem: Physiology and functional morphology. Academic Press. 441 pages.
  • HUNTER, Dard
  • 1927
  • Primitive papermaking. An account of a Mexican sojourn and of a voyage to the Pacific islands in search of information, implements and specimens relating to the making and decorating of bark-paper, Chillicothe.
  • HUNTER, Dard
  • 1943
  • Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft. Dover Publications, Inc., New York City, NY.
  • LENZ, Hans
  • 1949
  • Las fibras y las plantas del papel indígena mexicano. Cuadernos Americanos. Volumen 8, Mayo-Junio, Número 3. pp. 157-169.
  • LENZ, Hans
  • 1984
  • Cosas de papel en Mesoamérica. Prólogo por José Miguel Quintana. México, D.F., 511 pages.
  • LOPEZ, Citlalli
  • 2004
  • Amate papel de corteza mexicano (Trema micrantha (l.) blume): estrategias de extracción de corteza para enfrentar la demanda”, en m. alexiades y P. Shanley (eds.), Conservación y medios de subsistencia. Diversos casos sobre productos forestales no maderables en América Latina, vol. 3, Cifor-dfid-eu. Indonesia: 387-413
  • LOPEZ, Citlalli
  • 2005
  • Amate: presente de un papel tradicional de corteza. In La riqueza de los bosques mexicanos: más allá de la madera. Experiencias de comunidades rurales, pp. 31-35. Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat).
  • LOPEZ, Citlalli, CHAFON, Susana, and Gerardo SEGURA (editors)
  • 2005
  • La riqueza de los bosques mexicanos: más allá de la madera. Experiencias de comunidades rurales. Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat). 201 pages.
  • LOPEZ, Isais and M. V. MEEREN
  • 2009
  • Papel amate. CONABIO, Biodiversitas 82::11-15.
  • MAYA Moreno, Ruben
  • 2011
  • El papel amate, suporte y recurso plastico en la pintura indigena del centro de Mexico. PhD dissertation, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Department of Painting. 461 pages.


  • The copious number of photographs of the step by step processing of the bark makes this one of the absolute best resources to understand how the paper is really made. It is not “bark” at the end of the process, it is boiled, steamed, mashed remains of inner bark, applied in a mud-like form to a frame. So it really is “manufactured” paper. The bark simply is what is the base material.

  • This dissertation is available on-line.
  • OETTINGER Jr., Marion.
  • 1986
  • Concarino: Mexican Folk Art. San Antonio, Texas: San Antonio Museum of Art.
  • PIEDRA-Malagón, Eva María, RAMIRZ Rodríguez, Rolando, and Guillermo IBARRA-Manríquez
  • 2006
  • El género Ficus (Moraceae) en el Estado de Morelos, México Acta Botánica Mexicana, núm. 75, 2006, pp. 45-75, Instituto de Ecología, A.C. México.

  • http://www.redalyc.org/pdf/574/57407503.pdf
  • QUINTANAR-Isaias, Alejandra, LOPEZ Binnquist, Citalli, and Maria VANDER MEEREN
  • 2008
  • El uso del floema secundario en la elaboracion de papel amate. ContactoS 69, 38–42.


  • Available on-line. This is an excellent technical (chemical, botanical) description of the layers of bark.
  • ROBERTSON, Donald.
  • 1959
  • Mexican Manuscript Painting of the Early Colonial Period. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.
  • ROBLES Vargas, Bertha
  • 2011
  • Estado actual del conocimiento de la elaboración del Papel Amate. Thesis, Ingeniero Forestal, Universidad Autonoma Chapingo
  • SANDSTROM, Alan R. and Pamela E. SANDSTROM.
  • 1986
  • Traditional Papermaking and Paper Cult Figures of Mexico. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.
  • SANGER, Chloe.
  • 1990
  • Arts and Crafts of Mexico. Chronicle Books, San Fransisco, CA.


  • Available on-line.


  • Also includes a list of plant species which provide colorants. Provides an abundance of snapshots of how the paper is manufactured.


  • It is ironic that two very lengthy PhD dissertations on bark paper came out the same year, 2011. Although the paper is called “amate paper” in fact both dissertations list all the other trees used.
  • SCHWEDE, R.
  • 2012
  • Über das Papier der Maya-Codices und einiger altmexikanischer Bilderhandschriften. Dresden.
  • SCHWEDE, R.
  • 1916
  • Ein weiterer Beitrag zur Geschichte des altmexikanischen Papiers’, in Jahresbericht der Vereinigung für angewandte Botanik 13 (1916), pp. 4-55.
  • STARR, Frederick
  • 1900
  • Mexican Paper, in: American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal 22 (1900), pp. 301-309.
  • TEIJGELER, Rene
  • 2006
  • Amate From cloth, manuscript to painting, On-line.


  • A good general survey of the literature, though a challenge to know whether it is based primarily or entirely on library research or whether there is first-hand research in Mexico.


  • A note says: “Teijgeler, R., The politics of amate and paper in Mexico. In: IPH Congress Book 2006, vol.16. Marburg: International Association of Paperhistorians. To be published soon.”


  • TOLSTOY, P.
  • 1963
  • Cultural Parallels Between Southeast Asia and Mesoamerica in the Manufacture of Bark Cloth’, in: Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, Series 2, 1963 (25/1), pp. 646-662.
  • TSCHUDIN, W. F.
  • 1961
  • Älteste Papierbereitungsverfahren in Mittelamerika. Zusammenhänge zwischen Tapa, Maya-und Otomipapier’, in: Textil-Rundschau 12 (1961), pp. 3-12 and 16.
  • VANDER MEREEN, M.
  • 1995
  • El Papel Amate: Tecnología, Composición y Alteraciones. Imprima- tura, Revista de Restauración. pp. 3-12.
  • VANDER MEREEN, M.
  • 1997
  • El papel amate, origen y supervivencia. Arqueología Mexicana 23: 70-73.
  • VASQUEZ, C.
  • 1997
  • Trema micrantha (l) blume (Ulmaceae): a promising neotropical tree for Site amelioration of deforested land. Agroforestry Systems 40: 97-104.
  • RODRIGUEZ, O.
  • 1995
  • Land Use conflicts and planning strategies in urban fringes: a case study of Western Caracas, Venezuela
  • TOOR, Francis.
  • 1939
  • Mexican Popular Arts. Francis Toor Studios, Mexico, D.F.
  • TROIKE, Nancy
  • 1979
  • Observations on Some Material Aspects of the Codex Colombino. University of Texas at Austin: Reprinted by permission from TLALOCAN, Vol. VI, No.3, 1970.
  • VERDINELLI, Bocco
  • 1990
  • Gully erosion analysis using remote sensing and geographic information systems: a case study in Central Mexico
  • Von HAGEN, Victor
  • 1944
  • The Aztec and Maya Papermakers. J.J. Augustin Publisher, New York.

First posted December, 2013