Native American


Artist: Unknown
Culture/People: Cherokee
Place: Southeast United States
Media: Oak splints, and natural dyes
Dims: 9 x 7 x 5.5 in. (22.9 x 17.8 x 14 cm).
Date: c. 2002
RTC No: NA0907
Gift of Ralph T. Coe, 2011


This basket style is found throughout the Southern Appalachians; they are variously known as rib, egg and/or melon baskets. It is a style that appears to be of European origin and was fully established as part of Cherokee repertoire by the first years of the nineteenth century. The absorption of ideas and materials is what keeps cultures going strong; without new things to think and do cultures become stagnant and static.

Weavers unlike other artisans cannot just order their materials or go to a store but must venture out to harvest and prepare them. Baskets are certainly about the finished product—what you see, a good quality basket that is well-made, even in tone and bearing that begins with the practiced harvesting and preparing of oak logs that are split and processed to become the weft and warp of the basket. The manufacture of a good rib basket is time-consuming and arduous. Because good oak wood is still a valuable and scarce commodity, it is best to turn it into rib baskets, even though the labor is greater. All parts of the oak log are used in making a rib basket: the heart­wood is split and carved into ribs (weft) whereas the heartwood would be waste in other basketry techniques; all of the sapwood, even that from inferior logs, can be used for the narrow splints (warp).

Watch Lydia Louise Goings and Tonya E. Carroll speak about this piece on Collections Spotlight June 2020.

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