Qwu?gwes Basketry Debris: Measurements, Comparisons ... - Library

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Qwu?gwes Basketry Debris: Measurements, Comparisons ... - Library

Qwu?gwes Basketry Debris: Measurements, Comparisons and AnalysisSusan Smith, South Puget Sound Community College, Olympia, WA.Abstract. The basketry construction debris that have been measured consist ofcedar bark strips, cedar bough/root splints and cherry bark strips. Thedistributional patterns, through time and space of the basketry constructiondebris, and the measurements has aided us in understanding the magnitude ofbasketry construction taking place at the site. Variations in width and thicknesshave been documented and aids in understanding the kinds of basketry beingmade. I will compare the construction debris with currently found basketry at thesite. The focus of this project will be the basketry construction debris from theQwu?gwes wet site (1999-2002). Additional research has been conducted on theuses of the basketry by the Squaxin People, and the process by which thesebasketry items were made.IntroductionNumerous basketry and cordage artifacts, as well as, examples ofbasketry waste materials have been recovered at the Squaxin archaeological siteof Qwu?gwes (45 TN 240) on Mud Bay Inlet, Olympia, Washington. Theexamples of basketry waste materials include, strips and edge clippings thatwere discarded during manufacturing or repairs of baskets, hats, mats, blanketsand other useful products that were made from cedar bark and splints of roots orlimbs (boughs). The HokoRiver archaeological sitelocated 150 miles Northwestof Qwu?gwes on theopposite corner of theOlympic Peninsula, is theonly other wet site that hasfully analyzed basketrywaste detritus. This isanalogous to analysis ofLithic debris at many othersites. The large quantities ofmaterials at Qwu?gwesindicate that basketrymanufacturing had occurredat this site. The levels ofproduction are comparableto that found at Hoko Riverarchaeological site.Qwu?gwes (Qw) and Hoko River (HO)Wet Sites Basketry Waste Data ComparisonsReport 4-1


AnalysisAll basketry materials recovered from the Qwu?gwes archaeological sitehave been washed, stabilized in 200 molecular weight polyethylene glycol(carbon wax) and water (50/50), dried and sorted into the following categories:cedar bark, splints (roots/limbs) and cherry bark. Materials recovered during1999 to 2002 have been measured recorded and placed in individual bags thathave been numbered, labeled with site code, rid, level, description, date andmeasurements. This information was written in black permanent marker.Measurements included length, thickness and width in centimeters. So far 589waste elements have been analyzed.Nets were first found in 1999 during testing of Qwu?gwes. This was agreat indicator of the richness of the Qwu?gwes site. Thus far, 60 square feet ofcedar-bark gill net have been recovered. In 2000, examples of cedar barkchecker matting were found.Material IdentificationThe first large basketry artifacts were uncovered in 2001. A corner of thebasket was uncovered and photographed by Dr. Dale Croes. At that point therewas no way of knowing the significance of the find. That night Dr. Croes e-mailed the picture to Rhonda Foster who immediately dispersed the informationto several tribal council members. The following morning several Squaxin andNisqually tribal members arrived at the site and assisted in its recovery.The baskets were excavated with water to minimize damage due to the recoveryprocess.Report 4-2


It was fortunate that four generations of expert basket weavers werepresent to analyze the materials and share their cultural knowledge of markingsthat were woven into the baskets. They were able to explain this style oftraditional family markings. Which proved to be invaluable cultural informationthat could not have been known without the help of the tribal member.Though the plant material of basketry splints (root or boughs) was not identifiedby cell structure, the weavers considered the plant elements to be Western Redcedar bark or splints of boughs or roots. This was further substantiated throughworking with the weavers and our recognition of color and texture of thesematerials.Techniques and Methods of Harvesting Inner Cedar Bark (Inner PhloemLayer)Typically the best season for harvesting inner phloem is in the spring,preferably, during the warmer spring months of May and June when the sap isrunning. The sap swells the bark and loosens it from the fibrous wood core,which allows easier removal producing longer lengths (Paden 1980).Further, to find a tree one would search out younger cedars with theapproximate diameter of 40 to 60 centimeters (Paden 1980). While it is possibleto harvest three fourths of the tree bark, it is customary to take one fourth andrecommended not to exceed one third of its base in order to preserve the healthof the tree.Report 4-3


Once the bark has been removed from the tree, the outer bark is carefullypeeled, scraped or cut off the inner phloem layer with the aid of a sharp cuttingtool. The strips are then folded into bundles starting at the wide end of the strip(Paden 1980). These are then tied with a thin strip of cedar bark or twine. Thebundles are stored away allowing them to dry and cure for future use. The curingprocess takes at least one year, longer depending on its intended use. Beforeuse the cured bark is soaked in water to soften it.The process of creating long ribbon like strips that can be woven intovarious useful items is a follows: First, placing the blade of a sharp knife in oneend of the strip cutting along the grain. Once there is enough separationbetween the two pieces to allow for ones fingers to grip each section, the knife isno longer required. By gently pulling and separating the two sections a longribbon will form. The separation of the phloem layers does require skill, but whendone correctly, several successively thinner strips can be formed. This splittingprocess continues until the ribbon has reached the desired thickness. These canthen be used for basketry or cordage construction.Report 4-4


Splitting cedar bark with grain to createProper Basketry Element WidthThinning Cedar Bark Strip to properThicknessHarvesting Cedar LimbsLimbs are harvested during the warmer months of the year April throughOctober. One looks for young cedar trees with long straight, narrow limbs. Thewidths of the strips are determined largely by the diameter of the branch chosen.These are then heated and stripped of its bark (Boas 1909). The limbs arecommonly split through the center from the narrow end, and then additionalsplints are removed from each half as the thickness permits; (Boas 1909). Thesesplints can be stored for future use for long periods of time. The dried limbs aresoaked before use, and further split if necessary. These fibers were commonlyused for constructing sturdy baskets, such as Qwu?gwes pack baskets thatwould hold up to heavy use.Harvesting RootsReport 4-5


Harvesting roots is more laborious than that of bark or limbs. In that theproduct is usually buried thus hidden from view. Locating, uncovering andremoval of the roots requires the use of a digging stick, knowledge ofenvironmental clues and good upper body strength. The desired roots are fingersizedin diameter and as straight and as long as possible (Paden 1980). Findingsuch perfect specimens requires time and patience.Once these roots have been uncovered and removed from the ground,they are heated over a fire, then run through a split stick tong, which removes allthe bark (Paden 1980). At this point the roots are handled in the same manneras the limbs, split down the center and stored in a dry area for future use. Thesematerials would need to be soaked and split into thinner strips beforemanufacturing of products could occur.Raw Materials Compared Between Hoko and Qwu?gwesMethod of MeasurementsThe width and thickness of the cedar bark and splints are reflective of itsuse or intended use. For the reason it is important to measure each piece inorder to ascertain a clearer picture of the ancient Squaxin community’s use ofthis natural resource. These measurements also help in determining if there areany pattern in preference within the ancient community of width and thickness inthe products being manufactured, as well as, indicate the types of products beingused and manufactured. These figures can then be compared with otherethnographic collections.Report 4-6


With the aid of digital calipers each piece, as previously mentioned, wasmeasured for length, thickness and width. Measurements for comparison werethen taken of actual baskets at the new Squaxin Museum.Measuring two Qwu?gwes baskets at the new Squaxin Island Tribe MuseumThe following bar graphs have been formulated by comparing the findingsof Qwu?gwes archaeological site basketry waste materials with the data foundMargaret Paden’s 1980 report of the Hoko River archaeological site.Report 4-7


The average (mean) width of cedar-bark basketry waste strips is 5.4 cmwith a standard deviation of 2.5 cm. Comparing these figures with the HokoRiver archaeological site, where the average mean width of cedar-bark wastestrips was 0.7 cm with a standard deviation of 0.5 cm. Width of cedar-bark wassignificantly thicker at Qwu?gwes, but the opposite is true in regards to the widthof splint materials.The overall mean width for splints is 0.42 cm with a standard deviation of0.19 cm. Hoko River’s overall mean width was 0.7 cm with a standard deviationof 0.5 cm. Qwu?gwes splint materials are thinner comparatively to Hoko River.Report 4-8


The beauty of the Mud Bay wet site is that the materials recoveredshowed very little decay due to the preservative elements of the fresh waterspring that runs through the site. Thus, the width measurements generallyindicate the diameter of the root or limb at the time they had been initiallyharvested.The thickness of each piece of cedar-bark and splint is very indicative ofits placement within the production of the basketry product. For example: Had itbeen split down the middle, waiting future use? Had it been split once needingfurther thinning or had it already been split several times making it suitable for theproduction of a finished woven product? These indicators help in determining theactual us of the landscape i.e. storage, manufacturing, cooking, midden and soforth.The mean thickness of cedar-bark strips is 0.18 cm with a standarddeviation of 0.29 cm. Compared with Hoko River mean thickness of 0.10 cm withthe standard deviation of 0.06 cm. Here Qwu?gwes measurements are thickerwhen compared with Hoko River. These findings seem to indicate that thematerials at Hoko River were too thick for fine basketry, but were well within themeasurements of materials needed for matting and bags.The mean thickness of splint is 0.12 cm with a standard deviation of 0.11cm. Splints at Hoko River means were 0.11 cm with a standard deviation of 0.06cm. In this area the two sites were virtually the same with Qwu?gwes beingslightly thicker.Report 4-9


Experiments at Hoko River in preparing splint basketry material fromcedar and spruce roots indicated that the most usable elements were no thickerthan 0.11 cm. The flexibility of the material diminishes as the thicknessincreases making it difficult to manipulate.The length of the cedar-bark and splints recovered can indicate whetherthe piece was cut off scrap material or usable lengths.The length mean of cedar-bark is 5.4 cm with the standard deviation of 2.5 cmcompared with Hoko River where the mean length was 9.1 cm with a standarddeviation of 6.6 cm. Only 8 percent of the cedar-bark at Hoko was over 15.0 cmin length, with 1 percent at Mud Bay. This leaves 99 percent of the materialsReport 4-10


ecovered falling in the category of being too small to be considered useable formaking whole baskets. Indicating, that these pieces were most likely remnantsthat were trimmed off during the final steps of production.ConclusionThe length mean for splint basketry waste material is 5.1 cm with the standard deviationWhile, more information can be gathered from the study of thesebasketry elements such as: Studying surface texture (i.e., beaten, shredded orfrayed) indicators of preparation modifications for specific usage (i.e., basketry,skirts, towels or baby diapers), and studying end cut mark that can be indicatorsof both tool usage (e.g., sharp or dull) as well as determiners whether theelements had been broken off baskets or cut off as end pieces. This papersfocus in on categorizing, measuring and logging and of all basketry materialsrecovered from the Mud Bay site between 1999 through 2002. Allowing forfuture studies to be made.Report 4-11


ReferencesBoas, Franz1909 The Kwakiutl of Vancouver Island. American Museum of NaturalHistory, Memoirs 8, 307-522Croes, Dale R.1980 Basketry artifacts. In, D.R. Croes and E. Blinman, eds., Hoko River: a2,500 year old fishing camp on the Northwest Coast of North America.La boratory of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.Report of Investigations 58:188-222.Paden, Margaret1980 Basketry artifacts. In, D.R. Croes and E. Blinman, eds., Hoko River: a2,500 year old fishing camp on the Northwest Coast of North America.Laboratory of Anthropology, Washington State University, Pullman.Report of Investigations 58:188-222.Stewart, Hilary1984 Cedar; tree of life to the Northwest Coast Indians. Vancouver/Toronto:Douglas and McIntyre.Report 4-12

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