Wednesday, October 24, 2012
The collections of the Spurlock Museum at the University of Illinois include several of these mysterious artifacts, called tipiti. They are long tubes of basketry, with a strongly woven loop at one end. Manioc (also known as cassava) is grated into a wet pulp, and then placed into the tipiti. When the tube is attached to a sturdy structure (like the beam of a house, or a tree), a pole or branch can be attached to the bottom, and when pressure is applied (by standing on the pole), liquid is squeezed out of the pulp. This liquid contains hyrdocyanic or prussic acid. The processed manioc is then ready to be made into flour. An fine photo essay from the Smithsonian can be found here. Processing manioc with the tipiti is a basic domestic task in many parts of the Amazon, although it is not common in Mojos. On a side note, the Department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois has a long and distinguished history of Amazonian and Andean archaeology and cultural anthropology.