Powhatan's Mantle


Powhatan's Mantle


Small, polished marine shells configured in the shape of discs, animals (probably a deer and a cougar), and a human figure are sewn onto this seventeenth-century Virginia Indian cloak. The artifact, in the collection of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England, was described in a 1656 catalogue as being "Pohatan (sic), King of Virginia's habit all embroidered with shells, or Roanoke." Whether this garment actually belonged to Powhatan is open to question; another Chesapeake-area chief may have owned it. The cloak is made out of four deerskins and measures seven feet, eight and a half inches by five feet, three inches. Scholars believe that the garment was probably not worn, but hung inside a grand interior or temple. It has been estimated that nearly 20,000 shells were sewn by hand onto the garment.

Description courtesy of Encyclopedia Virginia.



Date Created

Early seventeenth century


National Park Service


Animal hide

Physical Dimension

7' 8.5'' x 5' 3"


Chesapeake Bay, seventeenth century

Rights Statement: Courtesy of the National Park Service