Polynesian objects from early European exploration, £19.99
Diameter: 18.000 cm
Gift of Sir A.W. Franks
AOA Van 198
Room 26: North America
Twined basketry woman's hat
Yurok, 1793 AD
From Tsurai (Trinidad), California, North America
This is perhaps the earliest example of the highest expression of Yurok and Karuk basketry. Willow or hazel shoots are used for the foundation, the twined elements being made of split roots, such as spruce or pine. The overlay ground is grass, the designs worked in black maidenhair and woodwardia fern dyed red using alder.
The skill of basketry was learnt by girls from their mothers or maternal relations; the men assisted only in the gathering of materials. This became difficult in the nineteenth century: the burning of hazel and grass that provide fresh shoots was prohibited by Americans as they took over Indian lands. Farming, including the gathering of Christmas trees, also damaged sources.
Baskets were disposed of at burial, or by placing in trees, but never burned. On death a woman's baskets would be disposed of rather than passed down the generations. Baskets for food preparation and cooking were the most common. They would be cleaned after use by washing and brushing with hazel and willow-stick tip brushes.
J.C.H. King, First peoples, first contacts: (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)