copalˈkoʊ pəl, -pæl
a brittle aromatic resin used in varnishes
A resinous exudation from various tropical trees used chiefly in making varnishes and printing ink.
Copal is a name given to tree resin that is particularly identified with the aromatic resins used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and other purposes. More generally, the term copal describes resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between "gummier" resins and amber. The word copal is derived from the Nahuatl language word copalli, meaning "incense". To the pre-Columbian Maya and contemporary Maya peoples it is known in the various Mayan languages as pom, 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 and during sweat lodge ceremonies. 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 was also grown in East Africa, initially feeding an Indian Ocean demand for 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. By the late 19th and early 20th century varnish manufacturers in England and America were using it on train carriages, greatly swelling its demand.
Copal is tree resin, particularly the aromatic resins from the copal tree Protium copal (Burseraceae) used by the cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica as ceremonially burned incense and for other purposes. More generally, copal includes resinous substances in an intermediate stage of polymerization and hardening between "gummier" resins and amber. Copal that is partly mineralized is known as copaline. It is available in different forms; the hard, amber-like yellow copal is a less expensive version, while the milky white copal is more expensive.
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