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California Karuk storage basket

before 1948
20th Century
13 in. x 10 1/2 in. (33.02 cm x 26.67 cm)

Native American, Native American

Object Type: Baskets
Creation Place: North America, United States, California
Medium and Support: Hazel or willow warp shoots, probably hazel; conifer root weft; bear grass and maidenhair fern overlay
Credit Line: Gift of S. O. Johnson
Accession Number: 1948.2
Technique: Twined basket with a full-twist overlay (design in fully visible on interior and exterior). It’s very strong and sturdy with a solid warp foundation. There is bear grass overlay all over and then darker fern overlay for the pattern.

Design: This design looks like the pattern on page 122 of Kroeber, which he says is either considered a wax’poo or a flint repetition

Structure: This is a larger storage basket. I notice it is like the shape of a classic tobacco storage basket (teardrop), but bigger. It seems like it would have been used in a home, it is definitely big enough unlike the trinket baskets or fancy baskets. It has many hairs all over inside and out. Has definitely suffered some damage maybe from use or just handling over time, particularly to the rim. Larger warp sticks were used for this basket than ones used for hats for example, so it’s a bit of a wider weave but it is very strong – probably hazel as those were used for stronger support. Not a ton of indicators of heavy residue use on the inside other than the wear and tear it has seen. The base has a big support stick woven in to keep the base flat and strong. Some examples of what it would have been used for: dry goods, clothing, regalia, plants and weaving materials.

Cultural affiliation notes: The record states “Karok” and I think it would be accurate to assume it’s Karuk. Very much matches the style of this region but I’d be curious how the donor came to know it was Karuk instead of Yurok or Hupa, perhaps they knew a little more about where they acquired it. Another big storage basket in the MCAM collection that is similar and from the same accession is 1948.6. Storage baskets in the Karuk alphabet were called C+´P-NOK-MÚ-YON-NUR or sipnuk.

Citation: Kroeber, Alfred L. “Basket Designs of the Indians of Northwestern California.” University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 2, no. 4 (1905): 105-164

Jesse Dutton-Kenny, Visiting Researcher, October 26th - 27th & 29th - 30th, 2020

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