Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management

Next: DesignsContentsPrevious: Coiled Baskets

Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region (1933) by S. A. Barrett and E. W. Gifford


Two kinds of coiling, the single-rod foundation (plate XLVII) and the three-rod foundation (plate XL) prevailed throughout the entire Sierra Miwok region. The two-rod foundation was occasionally used. The multiple-grass foundation (plate XLI) was much used by the Central and Southern Miwok.

The single-rod foundation technique was made in the usual way, but frequently in thrusting the awl point through the basket a rod was pierced and split so that at first sight the basket may appear to be of multiple-welt foundation. So far, however, no true multiple-welt basket has been found among the Miwok.

The two-rod foundation was employed, at least in the Central and Southern areas. Informants stated that it was not used in the Northern and Plains areas. In this technique two rods of unequal diameter were placed side by side in each coil, the larger rod being on the inside. Owing to this inequality in the rods the outward appearance of a basket of this technique is similar to that of a three-rod foundation basket. As in the single-rod foundation, the piercing of the rods by the awl produced what in cross-section might appear as a multiple-welt or a rod-and-multiple-welt foundation.

The three-rod foundation technique was much used. Again we find the careless splitting of the rods. In an unusual form of this technique there is no superimposition of the rods, but a large central rod is flanked on either side by a small one, called matcī'nu (C). The sewing element is intentionally passed through the large rod at each stitch.

The multiple-grass foundation consists of a bundle of fine grass stems. The manipulation of the sewing element is quite the same as in the other coiled techniques.

Split stitches occur rarely in Central Miwok coiled baskets. No name was obtainable for this peculiarity. An example is shown in plate LI, fig. 2, which is a specimen (74928) in the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University. In this example the stitches are split only on the exterior of the basket. On the interior they are intact. This example is from Calaveras county. An example of lazy stitch is specimen 71544, Field Museum (Southern Miwok, Chowchilla river). Each coil is wrapped three or four times, then a wrapping passes over the adjacent coil.

The designations for the four techniques of coiled baskets are given below. With the exception of the word sū'ta, they seem to be based on the words for the numerals one, two, and three. Single-rod coil: su'ta (P), lūtī'ka (N), keñe'ka (C). Two-rod coil: ōtī'ko (N), ōtī'ka (C). Three-rod coil: telóka (P, N), telo'ka (C). Multiple-grass coil: telo'ka (N).

The Miwok names for the various forms of coiled baskets are as follows:

Plate-form winnower: ūlī'ta (N), eselo (C), he'talu (S). Plate XLIX, figs. 1-5.

Parching basket: ke'waiyu (C), to'gūn (S). Plates XLVIII, fig. 2; XLIX, fig. 1.

Cooking basket, Maidu type: toyuno (N). Plate XL.

Cooking basket, truncated-cone form: pula'ka, pu'la (N); pūla'ka, ho'motca, ho'nmūtca, tco'ti, o'sa (C); alu'mma, hū'lī (S). Plates XLI; XLV, figs. 5 and 6; XLVII, figs. 5 and 6; and XLVIII, fig. 6.

Small truncated-cone basket: hī'ma, ū'līta (C); alúmma (S). Plates XLII; XLIII, figs. 5-10; XLIV; and XLVI, figs. 1-4.

Truncated-cone basket, multiple-grass foundation and string: kotī’ (S).

Globose basket, not multiple-grass: hīsu'ma (C).

Globose basket, multiple-grass foundation and string: osa sotono (C), pula'kka (S).

Dipper: pulī'sa (P); pudī'sa (N), pūlī'ssa, sō'tonō, (C); pūla'kka (S). Plates XLIII, figs. 2, 4; XLV, figs. 1-3; XLVII, figs. 1, 2,; XLVIII, fig. 1; and L, figs. 3, 4.

Low, cylindrical basket: te'waiyu (C).

Elliptical or canoe-form basket: wī'kili (C). Plates XLIII, fig. 3; XLVII, fig. 4; and XLVIII, fig. 3.

Feathered basket: ko'tī (S).

Plate-form, multiple-grass foundation basket: hetalu, o'sa, o'sa sō'tōnō (C). Plate L, fig. 1. The plate-form, multiple-grass basket was made mostly in the Southern Miwok area and slightly in the Central. It is doubtless related to the similar baskets of the Yokuts, especially the gambling tray. Two Field Museum examples (70001, 70221) are designated gambling trays.

In cooking and serving acorn mush, soup, and bread, the Miwok employed the closely-woven, flaring basket (plates XLII; XLIII, figs. 5-10; XLIV; XLV, figs. 5, 6; XLVI; and XLVII, figs. 5, 6). The cooking was done in a large basket by means of hot stones (plate XXXII, figs. 1-4), and the cooling and serving in smaller baskets of similar form (plate XLIII, figs. 5, 6; XLV, fig. 3; and XLVII, fig. 3). A very small basket of similar form was used as a dipper for transferring food, and for drinking water or manzanita cider (plate XLIII, figs. 1-4; XLV, figs. 1, 2; XLVII, fig. 1; and XLVIII, fig. 1). Another use was to dip and pour acorn soup, which was done to thicken it while cooking, especially in “biscuit making.” The same basket was also employed as a mold for the “biscuits” when placed in cold water.

For feasts, particularly those given by chiefs upon special occasions, large “gift” baskets (plate XL) were usually used for serving food, and sometimes for cooking it, but were never employed at feasts connected with the dead. The one illustrated is Northern Miwok and shows Maidu relationship in its deep conical form, as well as in its ornamentation. It was first given to a young man as a wedding present, and was later used to serve food. When filled, such a basket was very heavy and was carried into the center of the assembly house by several men, using straps tied about it. The food was then dipped out into smaller baskets by two women and served to the gathering. Such a large basket was always owned by a chief and was never communal property. He might present or trade it to another chief, or he might burn it in honor of some departed relative or friend. Such a basket owned by a chief must, upon his death, be burned. Sometimes such a basket held the water for the ceremonial washing of mourners.

A shallow, broad basket (plate XLIX, fig. 1) was used especially for parching seeds, as was also the plate-form meal sifter or winnower. The elliptical or canoe-form basket (plate XLVIII, fig. 3; and XLVII, fig. 4), the flaring and straight-sided baskets (plate XLVIII, figs. 1, 2, 4-7; and XLVII, fig. 2), and the globose basket (plate XLV, fig. 4) were used as general storage receptacles and for the serving of some kinds of food.

Field Museum specimen 70023 is a Central Miwok single-rod meal basket, about a foot in diameter and ten inches high. It is flat bottomed and vertical walled, forming a perfect cylinder. 70038 is a five-inch, single-rod, coiled basket, about fifteen inches in diameter. It has a slightly incurved rim and was used as a meal or seed bin. It is Central Miwok.

Coiled basket, of thee-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled basket, of three-rod technique and of northern type, especially used by chiefs for serving foods at feasts. Diameter at rim 708 mm. Spec. No. 1-10282 (C). Neg. No. 4969.


Coiled basket, of multiple-grass technique, and of southern type, pattern of Yokuts type. Diameter at rim 631 mm. Spec. No. 1-410 (S). Neg. No. 5971.

Coiled basket, of multiple-grass technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled cooking baskets of three-rod technique.

Figure 1. Spec. No. 1-10156 (C).

Figure 2. Spec. No. 1-9949 (C). Shows repair, especially at bottom.

Figure 3. Spec. No. 1-9952 (C).

Figure 4. Spec. No. 1-10265 (S). Diameter at rim 612 mm.

Neg. No. 4875.

Coiled cooking baskets of three-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled baskets of three-rod technique.

Figures 1, 2. Small baskets used as dippers in preparing and serving food. Spec. Nos. 1-9970 (N), 1-9932 (N). Neg. No. 4968. No. 2, height 76 mm.

Figure 3. Elliptical or boat-shaped basket of three-rod technique. Diameter at rim 195 mm. Spec. No. 1-10352 (S). Neg. No. 5977.

Figure 4. Dipper basket. Diameter at rim 168 mm. Spec. No. 1-10058 (N). Neg. No. 4968.

Figures 5-10. Baskets of three-rod technique, used for serving food and sometimes for cooking, when only a small amount is required. Spec. Nos. 1-9934 (N), 1-10075 (C), 1-9951 (C), 1-10082 (C), 1-10068 (C), 1-10060 (N). Neg. No. 4879. No. 10, diameter at rim 318 mm.

Coiled baskets of three-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]

Coiled cooking baskets of three-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled cooking baskets of three-rod technique.

Figure 1. Spec. No. 1-10059 (N). Height 175 mm.

Figure 2. Spec. No. 1-10175 (C).

Figure 3. Spec. No. 1-10185 (C).

Figure 4. Spec. No. 1-10288 (C).

Figure 5. Spec. No. 1-10264 (S).

Figure 6. Spec. No. 1-10124 (C).

Neg. No. 4876.

Coiled baskets of three-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled baskets of three-rod technique.

Figures 1, 2. Dippers. Spec. Nos. 1-10100 (C), 1-10149 (C). No. 2, height 162 mm.

Figure 3. General receptacle, especially for serving food. Spec. No. 1-10294 (C).

Figure 4. Globose basket. Spec. No. 1-10194 (C).

Figures 5, 6. Cooking basket. Spec. Nos. 1-9972 (N), 1-10106 (C).

Neg. No. 4878.


Coiled baskets of three-rod technique, used as general receptacles, especially for serving food.

Figure 1. Spec. No. 1-9935 (N).

Figure 2. Spec. No. 1-10184 (C). Height 150 mm.

Figure 3. Spec. No. 1-9920 (N).

Figure 4. Spec. No. 1-10067 (C).

Neg. No. 5972.

Coiled baskets of three-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]

Coiled baskets of single-rod technique.
[click to enlarge]


Coiled baskets of single-rod technique.

Figure 1. Dipper baskets. Spec. No. 1-10142 (C).

Figure 2. Coarsely woven basket. Spec. No. 1-10120 (C).

Figure 3. Basket used for serving food and as a general receptacle. Spec. No. 1-10174 (C).

Figure 4. Elliptical basket. Spec. No. 1-10351 (S). Height, 167 mm.

Figures 5, 6. Cooking basket. Spec. Nos. 1-10349 (S), 1-10147 (C).

Neg. No. 4970.

Next: DesignsContentsPrevious: Coiled Baskets

Home A - Z FAQ Online Library Discussion Forum Muir Weather Maps About Search
Online Library: Title Author California Geology History Indians Muir Mountaineering Nature Management