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  • Arts & Culture
  • Issue 36

Object Matters

A fluff-free history of the pillow. Words by Katie Calautti. Photograph by Gustav Almestål. Styling by Andreas Frienholt.

The next time you rest your weary head atop your memory foam, down, polyester or wool-stuffed pillow, try to avoid recalling the object’s not-so-humble origins; you’ll likely conjure nightmares. The main purpose of pillows, at first, was not for comfort. Back in early Mesopotamian civilization, the half-moon-shaped headrests were made of carved stone, and their main job was to keep insects out of the mouth, ears and nose of a person sleeping on the floor. 

The Romans and Greeks brou-ght comfort into the equation, perfecting the pillow’s ability to support the head, neck and spine by stuffing cloth with feathers or straw. Initially, the bolsters were seen as a sign of wealth, though the general populace adopted them over time, especially as an accessory brought to a place of worship to cushion knees while praying. But solid pillows prevailed elsewhere for longer. In ancient China, for example—where it was believed that soft pillows pulled

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This story is from Kinfolk Issue Thirty-six

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