Basket Cases in the Uinta Mountains

By Vanessa Mazer
Sponsored by Ashley National Forest

Base Camp for Baskets

  • All baskets were apparently found within five miles of the Green River, along Red Canyon. 
  • Sonders basket was the only basket found through formal excavation, by the Ashley National Forest, in 1994.  
  • Cart Creek Basket was recovered from a Volunteer Fire Fighter, who found it in a small rock shelter during the Cart Creek fire of 1977.  
  • Paul Hayes found the two Hayes Baskets during the construction of Flaming Gorge Dam in the late 1950’s.  
  • A basket bottom was found at the Hayes site during a formal excavation.  It is believed that the Red Canyon Basket was found in the Sheep Creek Canyon area, in Red Canyon. It has been on display at the Ashley National Forest Red Canyon Visitor Center for about thirty years. When and by whom it was discovered remains a mystery.

Baskets with Style

  • Every detail of basketry design and construction can vary with the basket maker. 
  • The burden baskets all had decorative designs.  
  • Decorative designs were stitched or coiled within the construction of the basket, not painted on the surface or added on to structural part of baskets.
Images that shows the design on a Sonders Basket. Image that shows the design patter on a Hayes BT-17 basket.
Images that shows the design pattern on a Cart Creek Basket. Images that shows the design pattern on a Hayes BT-16 basket.

How about a date?

Poster that shows the plants that are used to make baskets.  It includes, Willow, Skunk Bush, Milkweed and Dog Bane.Radiocarbon dating is not always taken from the basket material itself. There are other ways of gathering an approximate date for the baskets. Several ways include carbon dating by association with the contents found in the basket like maize (corn) cobs, for instance. Other forms include dating by inference through items found within the area that the basket was found. The placement of the basket in relation to other features found below or around the basket can offer approximate dating for the basket through carbon dating of the other feature.

Our Mind-boggling Burden baskets

The burden baskets are about 60%-90% complete, of similar shape and construction and are all classified as “V” shaped burden baskets.  All baskets lack an intact base and mouth, so overall measurements cannot be directly determined.  Carrying strap holes are evident in all five baskets.  The baskets are constructed of split, decorticated (bark removed) rods, split side down. There are fiber bundles between the rods. The coiling encircles and binds the rods and bundles in place. The coils in all samples encircle the rods rather than piercing them (non-interlocking).  They all have accidentally split stitches on both work surfaces.

Material, splice, work direction, and measurements of remnant baskets

Sonders Basket
Rods Material: Rhus
Stitches (coils) Material: Rhus
Bundle Material: Apocunum
Splices Cross: Top
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 57
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 33
Remnant Height (cm): 26
Remnant Volume (liters): 36

Photo of a Sonders Basket (AD 670-AD 990)

Sonders Basket (AD 670-AD 990


 Photo of a Hayes Basket BT-16 dated back to AD 1050, AD 1095, AD 1140

Hayes Basket BT-16 (dated by last storage feature in cave, maize dates AD 1050, AD1095, AD 1140)

Hayes (BT-16)
Rods Material: Unknown
Stitches (coils) Material: Unknown
Bundle Material: Unknown
Splices Cross: Bottom
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 62
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 20.5
Remnant Height (cm): 43.5
Remnant Volume (liters): 47


Hayes (BT-17)
Rods Materials: Unknown
Stitches (coils) Material: Unknown
Bundle Material: Unknown
Splices Cross: Bottom
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 61
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 29
Remnant Height (cm): 40
Remnant Volume (liters): 54 

 

Photo of a Hayes Basket BT-17 ( dated by last storage feature in cave,
Hayes Basket BT-17 ( dated by last storage feature in cave,
Maize dates AD 1050, AD 1095, AD 1140) 


 

Hayes Basket Bottom
Rods Materials: Unknown
Stitches (coils) Material: Unknown
Bundle Material: Unknown
Splices Cross: Bottom
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 61
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 29
Remnant Height (cm): 40
Remnant Volume (liters): 54 


Cart Creek (original portion) 
Rods Materials: Salix
Stitches (coils) Material: Rhus
Bundle Material: Apocynum
Splices Cross: Bottom
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 62
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm):
Remnant Height (cm): 47
Remnant Volume (liters): 57

Photo of a Cart Creek Basket (original portion AD 1000-1170, Addition AD 1020-1210)

Cart Creek Basket (original portion AD 1000-1170, Addition AD 1020-1210) 


Cart Creek (addition)
Rods Materials: Salix
Stitches (coils) Material: Rhus
Bundle Material: None
Splices Cross: Top and Bottom
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm):
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 22
Remnant Height (cm):
Remnant Volume (liters): n/a

 

 Photo of a Red Canyon Basket (not dated)

Red Canyon Basket (not dated)

Red Canyon
Rods Materials: Salix
Stitches (coils) Material: Rhus
Bundle Material: Apocynum
Splices Cross: Top
Work Direction: Right Slant
Remnant Top Diameter (cm): 57
Remnant Bottom Diameter (cm): 26
Remnant Height (cm): 37
Remnant Volume (liters): 46

Basketry

The Basic Kit for Basketry:

  • Images the shows how to make a basic basket.Weft (or rods) run from side to side, forming horizontal rows.
  • Warp threads (or coils) form the vertical stitches.
  • Some more common materials used in basket construction include: Milkweed (Asclepias spp.), Skunkbush (Rhus trilobata), Willow (Salix spp.), Dog bane ( Apocynum spp.)

Three distinct techniques:

  • Twining : twisting a series of fibers together
  • Plaiting : braiding fibers together
  • Coils : connected spirals formed by winding fiber around a foundation of more rigid materials.

Coiling clues: Coils can wrap around a preceding row (non-interlocking) or can pierce a preceding row (interlocking) to bind the rows in place. Work surface (the surface facing the maker) can be either the interior or exterior of the basket. Coils can be vertical or slanted (/ or \). Rods may be single, split or stacked (which may be combined with welts or fiber bundles).

These variables affect the flexibility of the basket.

Reduced, Rebuilt, and Recycled

We know that at least four of the five burden baskets had been recycled as stationary storage facilities. Baskets that began to wear out were inverted and used as storage containers.  The baskets were placed on a foundation of Juniper bark, rock or packed clay, sometimes buried in earthen pits.  One of the Hayes Baskets and the Sonders Basket had been placed on rings of Juniper bark, possibly to protect from insect infiltration.  Cart Creek Basket had a flat stone placed over the opening as a lid.

Photo of a basket that was being used for storage facility.

Diagram that shows how a Cart Creek Basket being used for storage.

Photo of a basket that has
been recycled and used as
a storage facility.

Diagram that shows the
structure for using a Cart Creek
basket for storage.





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/ashley/learning/history-culture/?cid=fsm9_002406