Archive for the 'basket' Category

Object: Fish Trap

Fish Trap
Sumatra, Indonesia
Unknown Date
Materials: Bamboo

This object is a cylindrical-shaped woven bamboo fish trap. It is about 10.5 inches high by 20 inches long by 8 inches wide while the lid is 4.5 inches in diameter. The side of the basket has a hole that measures 7.5 inches in length and 1.75 inches in width. The hole is designed to allow fish to enter the trap, but does not allow the fish to exit. The top of the fish trap has a hole where the fish are dumped out by the fisherman. There is a round lid situated over the hole to prevent the fish from escaping while in the trap.

This fish trap was purchased from street peddlers on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia between 1968-1978 at a camp near the city of Pekanbaru. Indonesia is an archipelago consisting of around 17,500 islands in between the Pacific and Indian Oceans.   Today, Indonesia represents a crossroads of culture and trade with more than 300 distinct ethnic groups and more than 700 languages still spoken.

Fish traps are woven from bamboo and rattan and are set in the water about five meters (16.4 feet) deep. Fishermen often attach their traps to lines and buoys that float on the surface of the water so they can know where they left the traps. The lines (or ropes) make it easy to haul the traps to the surface of the water once they are full of fish. Sometimes, however, the fishermen simply rely on their memory to know where they set the traps, and then they swim down to retrieve them. Usually, a trap is left in the water for a few days to ensure their success at catching fish.

The fish are taken out of the trap through a special hole. In the case of the trap from the Ethnology Collection, the hole is at the top. This isn’t always the case. It depends on the style of the trap.

The fishing industry is vital to many of the cultural groups of Indonesia and the surrounding region and has been for centuries. A fish trap is called a “bubu” in Bahasa, one of the most common Malay and Indonesian languages. Fish traps come in many different shapes and sizes, but they all serve the same purpose: to catch fish and keep them from escaping.









Take a look at this interesting video on how to make a similar type of bamboo fish trap:


[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Navajo Wedding Basket

Culture: Navajo
Location: Navajo Nation/Monument Valley; Bluff, UT
Date: 2009
Materials: Sumac twiggs

This object is a traditional style ceremonial basket made by Navajo artist Peggy Rock Black. The basket is shaped like a shallow bowl and has a very interesting black, red, and white design. The design woven into the basket is formed by a central star in white, outlined by black, surrounded by a “C” shaped band of red, which then has a band of black triangles bordering its outside edge. There is a small vertical band of white cutting through the entire design along one edge, extending from one point of the central star all the way to the rim.

This basket is an excellent example of a coil basket. There are three main types of basket weaving techniques used by native cultures of North America, including the Navajo. These include coiling, plaiting, and twining:

  1. Coiling: Coiling is a method of basket weaving where grasses or rushes are tied together to form a “bundle.” This bundle coils outward from the center of the basket and is used to make a spiral-shaped basket. Each coil of the spiral is lashed or sewn together using a “splint.”

  2. Plaiting: Plaiting is a method of basket weaving where thin rectangular pieces of bark or other plant material is woven together to form a checker-board pattern. This is the simplest type of weaving. The “warp” (the base) and “weft” (the pieces woven into the base) are interwoven at right angles in an over/under pattern.

  3. Twining: Twining is a method of basket weaving similar to plaiting. It also uses a “warp” and a “weft”. The only difference is that the weft is made up of two different pieces that are intertwined around each warp piece.

Navajo Wedding baskets are aptly named. They are usually given as gifts during weddings or other ceremonies. There are many different interpretations of these baskets, but they may be viewed as a way to map a person’s life. You start at the very center of the basket and progress along the coils, which always wrap around the center from left to right. The first several coils, forming the central star design, represent birth and childhood. The black triangles illustrate darkness, struggle, and pain that a person may face throughout their life. These experiences are always things that can be overcome. Individuals learn from these experiences and use them to become stronger. The red band represents marriage and creation, the start of a family. Because everyone still faces sadness and struggles throughout their life, there is another band of black triangles. The white represents enlightenment and wisdom, which can only be discovered over time and be learning from life experiences. The white line from the center of the basket to the rim is there to remind people that no matter how sad life can get, or how many obstacles they must overcome, there is always a path to happiness. As you reach the end of the coils that form the basket, you reach the end of the person’s life.

This is a fascinating object that not only represents the beliefs and worldview of the Navajo people in the designs woven into the basket but also in the very way in which the basket was created, an unbroken coil that represents a person’s entire life, from birth until death.

If you would like to learn more about Navajo basket weaving, take a look at this interview with modern Navajo basket weaver, Betty Rock Johnson:

[Stephanie Lynn Allen]

Object: Basket

Qwu’lh-hwai-pum (or Klickitat)
North America: Columbia River area
Unknown date: likely 20th century
Materials: Cedar and grass

The Qwu’lh-hwai-pum (or Klickitat) tribe traditionally lived in the area around the Columbia river in what is now Oregon, and Washington. They are part of the Shahaptian (or Sahaptin) language family, along with other Plateau tribes like the Nez Percé, and Yakima. The Qwu’lh-hwai-pum were one of many tribes from the Columbia river area that were “discovered” by Lewis and Clark on their great transcontinental expedition in the early 1800’s.

For thousands of years the Columbia river and its many tributaries served as the main means of transportation for the native tribes of the area. Fishing and trade in food items like deer and salmon meat as well as baskets thrived along the river banks. Baskets were important for gathering and storing food and personal items. Twined baskets were used to harvest root crops, coiled baskets were used for collecting berries while flat cornhusk baskets were used for storing dried roots. Below you will find a video that shows many of these basket styles and how they are made.

[Kathryn S. (Barr) McCloud]

Object: Goat Muzzle

Kara: Basketry Goat Muzzle
Eastern Africa
20th Century
Materials: Grass, straw

This object is a basketry goat muzzle from Ukara Island in northern Tanzania. Ukara Island is a small island (77 km²) located in the southeastern part of Lake Victoria (formerly known as Lake Noubaale). The name Ukara means Land (u) of the Spirit (ka) of the Sun (ra). Because of its small size and population density, most of the land on Ukara Island is privately owned so that every available acre can be farmed. The demands of agricultural production have resulted in Ukarans replacing most of the vegetation indigenous to the island with plants farmed for subsistence purposes. Millet, cassava, rice, and vegetables are staple crops, but many families also raise cattle fodder to feed several head of cattle for manure production. Because of the limited farmland, Ukarans are careful to keep the soil fertile, productive, and nutrient-rich with composted manure. Families can spend up to 12 hours a day transporting manure to fields and working fertilization into the soil.

Basketry muzzles like the one above, are used by Ukarans to keep their herds of sheep and goats from eating grasses or crops owned by someone else. Goats are kept in grass huts when not grazing on private fodder, but while being moved to water sources, they can be muzzled to discourage them from grazing along the way. This basketry muzzle is woven from narrow grass stems and straw. It contains two twisted fiber cords at each end for tying around the head of a goat. Some goats are not required to wear muzzles because they are considered sacred. When a witch doctor places the spirit of a departed ancestor in a goat, the animal is not muzzled. Instead, bells are used to signify their sacredness.

[Lauren Simons]

Object: Tray

Hopi: Basket Tray
North America
c. 1930
Materials: Grasses, Yucca, Devil’s Claw

This object is a basket tray made by the Hopi Indians of northern Arizona. The Hopi people are considered coilone of the oldest indigenous tribes of North America. The term “Hopi” comes from the name Hopituh Shi-nu-mu, which means “The Peaceful People.” Hopi are known for their production of high-quality art such as dolls, jewelry, ceramic, and baskets. This basket tray is made of a primary coil of grasses and a secondary coil of yucca, willow, and devils claw. There is a small handle on the top of the tray for hanging the basket in a display or as a plaque on the wall. The design on the basket is a pictorial of a Kachina or Katsina figure woven in devil’s claw. The devil’s claw is an integral part of the artistic design.


Yellow-flowered perennial devil's claw blossom.

There are literally thousands of species of beautiful wildflowers in North America, but some of the loveliest and most interesting are called devil’s claws. They produce bizarre seed-pods that attach to the feet and legs of large animals, and include some of the largest hitchhiker fruits in the world.


Seed capsules - Proboscidea althaeifolia (Benth.) Decne.

The devil’s claw fruit is technically a drupaceous capsule with a woody inner part surrounded by a fleshy layer. The rather sinister common name of “devil’s claw” refers to the inner woody capsule that splits open at one end into two curved horns or claws. Each capsule contains about 40 black seeds that are gradually released when the claws split apart.


[Loree Mcdonald and Lauren Simons]

Object: Basket


Akimel O’odham: Basket
North America
c. 1920
Material: Yucca, devil’s claw

This is an Akimel O’odham (or Pima) basket from the early 20th century. It is made of coiled yucca and devil’s claw. The Akimel O’odham are known for their skilled basket-weaving as well as the use of Squash Blossom and similar designs like the one on this basket. The Akimel O’odham are a group of American Indians living in an area consisting of what is now mapcentral and southern Arizona (USA) and Sonora (Mexico). The name means “river people.” They are thought to be culturally descended from the group archaeologically known as the Hohokam. The term Hohokam is a derivative of the O’odham words “Huhugam” (pronounced hoo-hoo-gahm) which is literally translated as “those who have gone before” but meaning “the ancestors.”

Currently, the majority of the population is based in the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC), although in historic times a large number of Akimel O’Odham migrated north to occupy the banks of the Salt River and formed the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Both tribes are confederations of two distinct cultures that include the Maricopa.

[Loree Mcdonald]

Object: Basket


Tohono O’odham: Coiled Basket
North America
19th Century
Materials: Grasses, Yucca, Devil’s Claw

This is a Tohono O’odham basket coiled in the shape of a duck. The Tohono O’odham currently reside in southwest Arizona and northern Mexico, though historically they occupied a much larger land base known as the Papagueria. For this reason, the Tohono O’odham were often referred to as “Papago” tribes by early European settlers.

This basket measures approximately 10 inches long and 4 inches high. It is constructed from grasses, yucca, and devil’s claw and features closed-coil stitching. In closed-coil stitching, the coiled grasses are completely covered by the outer stitch and are not visible through the stitching. Baskets made with closed-coil stitching require more time and detail than those bound together with open stitches. In this basket, strips of white yucca cover the coils of grasses that make up the body of the duck. Additionally, dark strips of devil’s claw are used to stitch a geometric design into the basket.

While Tohono O’odham baskets are used to carry things and prepare food, this basket was probably made for the tourist market. Basketmakers can spend days, if not weeks, on the production of a single basket. Common techniques used in Tohono O’odham basketmaking include stitching horizontal lines, parallel lines, and vertical frets as seen here. More baskets like this one are expected to be displayed at SNOMNH in the coming spring; plan a visit and enjoy getting to know the Story Behind the Object!

[Lauren Simons]

Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,695 other followers

%d bloggers like this: