World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Copal

Article Id: WHEBN0000170384
Reproduction Date:

Title: Copal  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Amber, Varnish, Nevado de Toluca National Park, Jewellery, Copal (disambiguation)
Collection: Art Materials, Fossil Resins, Incense Material, Mesoamerican Society, Natural History of Mesoamerica, Resins
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Publication
Date:
 

Copal

A sample of copal containing a few termites

Copal is a name given to tree resin from the copal tree Protium copal (Burseraceae) that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes.[1] More generally, the term copal describes resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between "gummier" resins and amber.[2] The word copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning "incense".[3][4][5][7][6]

To the pre-Columbian Maya and contemporary Maya peoples it is known in the various Mayan languages as pom (or a close variation thereof),[3][8] although the word itself has been demonstrated to be a loanword to Mayan from Mixe–Zoquean languages.

Copal is still used by a number of indigenous peoples of Mexico and Central America as an incense, during sweat lodge ceremonies and Sacred Mushroom ceremonies.[9] It is available in different forms. The hard, amber-like yellow copal is a less expensive version. The white copal, a hard, milky, sticky substance, is a more expensive version of the same resin.

Copal resin from Hymenaea verrucosa is also found in East Africa and is used in incense. By the 18th century, Europeans found it to be a valuable ingredient in making a good wood varnish. It became widely used in the manufacture of furniture and carriages. It was also sometimes used as a picture varnish.[10] By the late 19th and early 20th century varnish manufacturers in England and America were using it on train carriages, greatly swelling its demand.

In 1859 Americans consumed 68 percent of the East African trade, which was controlled through the Sultan of Zanzibar, with Germany receiving 24 percent. The American Civil War and the creation of the Suez Canal led to Germany, India and Hong Kong taking the majority by the end of that century.[11]

East Africa apparently had a higher amount of subfossil copal, which is found one or two meters below living copal trees from roots of trees that may have lived thousands of years earlier. This subfossil copal produces a harder varnish. Subfossil copal is also well-known from New Zealand (Kauri gum), Japan, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Madagascar. It often has inclusions and is sometimes sold as "young amber". Copal can be easily distinguished from genuine amber by its lighter citrine colour and its surface getting tacky with a drop of acetone or chloroform.[12]

References

  1. ^ Stross (1997).
  2. ^ Platt (1998).
  3. ^ a b "The word 'copal' first appeared in the English language in 1577. John Frampton wrote in his 'Englished' edition of Nicolas Monardes' Dos libros, el veno que trata de todas las cosas que traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales, originally published in 1596(Monardes 1577): 'They doe bring from the Newe Spaine [Mexico] twoo kindes of Rosine... the one is called Copall.' "Over three centuries later, Walter Hough (1912) wrote: 'There is a great confusion as to the identity of copal, the name, according to some writers, being used to cover a number of gums. It is possible that the confusion has arisen from post conquest times when errors multiplied rapidly as Mexican culture slipped swiftly into the background, for the earliest reliable chroniclers are clear as to the commonest use of the gum which we know as copal, and whose characteristic odor would place it distinctly in the first rank of incense materials.'

    "[...] This agrees with the etymology of the word 'copal' from the Nahuatl copalli, literally 'with the help of this path' or 'thanks to this path' (Corzo 1978).

    "Pom is derived from the Mayan po-, a root word meaning 'in harmony with the action of fire,' and -om, a suffix which denotes 'activity,' literally 'that that which is to be burnt' (, and López Franco 1976VázquezBarrera Marín, Barrera [Vásquez] )."
    Case, Ryan J.; Tucker, Arthur O.; Maciarello, Michael J.; Wheeler, Kraig A. (15 March 2003), "Chemistry and ethnobotany of commercial incense copals: copal blanco, copal oro, and copal negro, of North America" (PDF),  
  4. ^ "They doe bring from the Newe Spaine [Mexico] twoo kindes of Rosine... the one is called Copall." (Historia medicinal de las cosas que se traen de nuestras Indias Occidentales)
     
  5. ^ "There is a great confusion as to the identity of copal, the name, according to some writers, being used to cover a number of gums. It is possible that the confusion has arisen from post conquest times when errors multiplied rapidly as Mexican culture slipped swiftly into the background, for the earliest reliable chroniclers are clear as to the commonest use of the gum which we know as copal, and whose characteristic odor would place it distinctly in the first rank of incense materials."
     
  6. ^ a b "Copalli. incienso." (Vocabulario en lengua castellana y mexicana)
     
  7. ^ "Molina dice: 'Copalli, goma de árbol, o incienso';[6] [...]."
    Corzo Espinosa, César (1978), Palabras de origén Indígena en el Español de Chiapas (in Spanish), México: Costa-Amic Editores, pp. 57–59,  
  8. ^ Barrera Marín, Alfredo;  
  9. ^ "Mesoamerican Copal Resins". 
  10. ^ Mayer, Ralph (1976). The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques. New York: Viking. pp. 194–196
  11. ^ Thaddeus Sunseri, Wielding the Ax: State Forestry and Social Conflict in Tanzania, 1820-2000, 2009, p 10-12
  12. ^ David Grimaldi, Amber: Window to the Past, 1996, p 16-20, American Museum of Natural History

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.
 



Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.