Object: Pitch-covered Basket

NAM-07-04-024
Pitch-covered Basket
Paiute
ca 1900
Materials: Willow and piñon pitch

This is a twined and pitched water bottle also known as a kadu o’sa. The Paiute and other groups in the Great Basin and Southwest used basket water bottles. These water bottles have many different shapes; smaller vessels with a cone-shaped bottom were used as canteens while flat-bottomed baskets were used primarily for storage. The vessels used for canteens were cone-shaped on the bottom, round in the middle, and have a small mouth; this shape allowed the basket to lie on the ground without spilling its contents and allowed it to be carried in a larger basket. Most of these baskets had leather or horse hair handles and/or straps to carry these baskets while traveling. The baskets kept water cool for hours and were preferred to metal canteens, they continued to be used into the 1930s.

Paiute water vessels are triple twined baskets, which produces a very strong basket that is more water tight than single or double twining. The Paiute basket makers used a variety of plant materials to make their baskets. The most common basket making materials were: willow, yucca, and devil’s claw. After the basket was woven, the canteens were covered with soil and red clay on both the inside and outside. Red ochre, a pigment made from red clay not only prevented the baskets from leaking, but also gave the baskets a warm reddish-brown hue. Piñon pitch, a resin from pine trees, was melted and poured into the basket and spread over the outside. Hot rocks or pebbles were then placed inside the basket, which was turned to spread the pitch evenly. The resin would fill the gaps in the twining, making it water tight.

For more information on basket weaving and basket weavers see the Language of Native American Baskets from the Weaver’s View.

For information about the Paiute and their basket making tradition read: Weaving a Legacy: Indian Baskets and the People of Owens Valley, California.

SNMONH invites you to contribute your thoughts and information about burden baskets, basket weaving techniques, and cultures of the Great Basin. [Sara Hamby]

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