Time Capsules In movies, books and stories kites are often used to portray a sense of whimsy. They are linked to the carefree days of childhood. But like simple, carefree days kites are fragile. They are made of paper, twine, wood or silk. As a result vintage or historic kites are a rarity.

As a result, the historic kites that have survived into the modern era are revered treasures, especially among kite enthusiasts. Discovered by a carpenter in 1985 when he lifted the attic floor during the renovation of a building in Leiden, Netherlands is a kite that dates to the early 1770s. The Dutch Peartop paper kite is now owned by Peter Lynn, one of the world’s foremost kite designers.

As crazy as it may seem, when first discovered there was concerns expressed about it being a forgery. Extensive forensic investigation proved otherwise. The initial step when investigating historic artifacts such as the kite is to determine if the materials used in its construction are consistent with the claimed age. This was firmly established by examination of the paper, the string, the type of glue, and the dating of the ripped-out pages of an 18th-century Latin book published in 1700 used for the tail.

To give an idea as to how unique this kite is, consider the fate of much newer examples. By the second decade of the 21st century collectors were having to discard dump silk, paper and bamboo kites from the 1970s and 1980s. The silk had disintegrated to a point of extreme fragility. Paper crumbled. Bamboo split and warped. Even with dry and relatively stable storage kites often degrade to unrecognizability within a decade.

A close runner up for oldest kite is housed in a British Museum. This is a Maori “manu aute” birdman kite from the Bay of Plenty, in New Zealand that was collected in 1843. It most likely is older than this date but that can’t be confirmed. Pictures of similar kites were created by British explorers in the 18th century.

And as the quest for the oldest kite continues, there is a also completion to claim the oldest link to kite flying. Asep Irawan, a staff member at the Layang Kite Museum in South Jakarta, Indonesia was quoted as saying that the oldest kite picture was found in Muna, Southeast Sulawesi. Known as kaghati kolepe there are claims that it is 10,000 years old.

You may not be a kite collector. And you may not have interesting in preserving kites for decades. Still, most everyone has an affection for the lowly kite. And in troubling times such as the year 2020, there are few things that are more relaxing than sailing a kite to the heavens and watching it dance on the wind. For all of your kite needs in the Colorado River, Tumbleweeds and Tarantulas is your one stop shop.

Time Capsules

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America