Lidded rivercane basket

British Museum

British Museum

This lidded basket is the earliest historic example of Cherokee basketry, brought to London in the 1720s for the collection of Sir Hans Sloane, who recorded it: 'A large Carolina basket made by the Indians of splitt canes some parts of them being dyed red... & black They will keep any thing in them from being wetted by rain'.

Rivercane baskets (talu-tsa) are made from stripped splints of the hard glossy exterior of the cane, which are then woven in a variety of plaited and twilled weaves. Patterns develop both from the weave, and from the use of dye, here black walnut and pokeweed berries.

The Cherokee have stories about the origin of basketry. They say that Kanane-ski Amai-yehi ('Spider-Dwelling-in-the-Water'), a real water-boatman-like creature, created a basket so that she could capture the first fire. Like the water spider, she was able to cross boundaries between land and water, and wove the material that Cherokee women used for many of their other daily tasks. Baskets feature in much of Cherokee mythology. While leaning over a basket, Selu, the first woman, gives birth to maize by rubbing her belly, and to beans by rubbing her sides.

Most Cherokees were forcibly removed from North Carolina to Indian Territory in the 1830s. Some people, the Eastern Band of Cherokee, remained in the Smokey Mountains. There, weavers such as Lottie Stamper used The British Museum basket as a model during the second quarter of the twentieth century.

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  • Title: Lidded rivercane basket
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 51.00cm; Width: 16.00cm; Height: 8.00cm; Length: 48.00cm; Width: 20.00cm; Height: 6.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: basketry
  • Registration number: Am,SLMisc.1218.a-b
  • Place: Found/Acquired South Carolina
  • Peoples: Made by Cherokee. Made by Southeast Peoples
  • Other information: Cultural rights may apply.
  • Material: cane
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Sloane, Hans. Collected by Nicholson, Francis