Update W: Ancient Baskets New Again from Biderbost Preserve

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Group visit to Biderbost Preserve
Group visit to Biderbost Preserve

The Western Office just did a very special visit to our Biderbost Preserve.  Cory Wilkins, Director of the Western Regional Office for TAC, met with Ed Carriere of the Suquamish tribe, Dr. Dale Croes Adjunct Professor of Washington State University, Sven Haakanson of the Burke Museum, and several other tribal members at our Preserve. Ed Carriere, basketweaver, recently made two replicas based on basketry fragments that were collected from the site during excavations in the 1960s-70s and that have been housed in the Burke Museum. The purpose was to revisit the site where the original baskets were unearthed.

The site was discovered in 1959 after a flood event and was later excavated intermittently from the 1960s to 1970s but the Washington Archaeological Society.  These excavations are noted as the first waterlogged investigations, or “wet site” excavations, done in the Pacific Northwest. In 1979, Dr. Blukis-Onat and students from the Seattle Central Community College conducted further excavations at the site.  They uncovered what appeared to be a burned house post and associated side posts.  The ethnographic literature indicates that house structures were comprised of removable wall planks that were tied between main posts and side posts.

It is suggested that the site was a village location, indicated by evidence of a large structure, workshop areas, and fish weirs.  A cutbank on the edge of the river shows that the site contains a subsurface deposit of three meters.  Cultural material excavated from the site includes lithics, groundstone, faunal remains, basketry, matting, cordage net sinkers, wooden implements, and a fish weir.  The site was donated in 2009 by Astrida Blukis Onat to the Archaeological Conservancy.

Original Basket Fragment from Biderbost site now housed at Burke Museum
Original Basket Fragment from Biderbost site now housed at Burke Museum

Below Ed Carrie writes about the replication progect and process

Awakening Ancient Salish Sea Basketry: Suquamish elder works with preservation officers to recreate ancient basket designs
by Ed Carriere, Published in Suquamish Newsletter from April 2015

When wet site archaeologistand friend Dr. Dale Croes called me last September he had an idea that he believed I would like. He was preparing to analyze a collection of 2,000 year old baskets from the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Biderbost site in their traditional territory near Duvall, WA. He asked if I wanted to try and replicate the ancient Salishan pack baskets found there.

He thought I was probably the only current Salish Sea basketweaver still making cedar root/bough pack baskets and knew I liked challenges! I definitely loved the idea
so he submitted a Suquamish Appendix X proposal to do the project, which gave us funds to support our travel and food expense. We scheduled a research trip to view more than fifty basketry examples at the Burke Museum at UW where Dale’s assistant, Kathleen Hawes, conducted cellular ID of the basketry materials with a microscope. The collection was intriguing to say the least, however most of the basketry was in fragments. We had to examine each one to reconstruct how they might have looked when complete.
Generally there were two types of large pack baskets, an open twined example and a checker plaited type. Kathleen determined that, from her sample, all the basket materials were split western red cedar roots. They also had twill 3-3 weave bottoms; today most baskets are twill 2-2; the handles were often on the sides of the carrying baskets on a reinforcement row of two strand wrapped elements.

Laura Philips, Archaeology Collections Manager at the Burke, asked that I try and make the most fine weave example in the collection. After lots of measurements and
photographs I decided this would be the one I would replicated. I also helped Dale Croes (a basketweaver taught by Makah Elders for his Ozette Archaeological wet
site dissertation) to replicate the courser gauge checker plaited utility baskets common to the Biderbost site.

Carriere  Replica Basket base
Carriere Replica Basket base

I took a vacation trip to Mexico and packed my suitcase full of cedar roots so I could continue the 1st replication while traveling. I greatly enjoyed spending days on
my hotel balcony working on figuring out how to make this basket and almost finished it on my return. Dale asked that we help the UW Burke with their Archaeology
Day program for the public, so I was able to show how this basket was coming along. We also had the ancient Biderbost basket to
compare for the visitors.
My first replica was mostly to learn how these ancient basket would be constructed and this guided me in making the second replica of this type of basket. I again had a different trip planned to Mexico, so packed my suitcase full of cedar roots and worked on Biderbost basket number two. I highly enjoyed spending my time again correcting my earlier mistakes and making the next replica on vacation in Mexico, being secluded with no interruptions.

Carriere Basket Replica
Carriere Basket Replica

Upon return, Dale indicated that he had contacted the owners of the Biderbost site, the Archaeological Conservancy, and arranged a visit to the site—something I really wanted to see. Also the Cultural Officer and Archaeology crew from the Snoqualmie Tribe and a class from the UW Burke Museum would join us. We brought our replicas, Dale’s checker plaited utility basket, and I guided him through and the open twined types I have been working on. We also met Cory Wilkins, of the Archaeological Conservancy, who flew in from Sacramento, CA to see our work. The Snoqualmie cultural/archaeological staff and UW group joined us in Duvall, Wa. for lunch.

We worked our way to the site on the Snohomish River banks and saw where over 50 ancient basketry fragments were recovered from the site. The waters were still high, so we could only see the top of the site. I really enjoyed seeing where these ancient baskets were made and used. We hope to visit at lower waters too.

 

Ed Carriere Basket at Biderbost
Ed Carriere Basket at Biderbost

 

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