Visitors to the Anasazi Heritage Center this year will be able to see the diverse history of Native American basketry in the Four Corners from 7,000 years ago to present day.
Baskets were first woven mainly for practical purposes such as processing corn and later evolved into artistic and sometimes ceremonial objects, said Sarah Thomson, who developed the exhibit.
“You’ll see a very ancient tradition move through time,” she said.
The exhibit starts with the oldest-known basket in the area, a shallow basket believed to be 7,000 years old, uncovered at an active excavation.
“Its preservation is phenomenal,” said Marietta Eaton Anasazi Heritage Center director.
About 50 baskets are on loan from the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Mesa Verde National Park and the private collection of Twin Rocks Trading Post, in Utah. The display also includes about 65 objects.
Older pieces show how Native Americans created ceramic bowls in baskets, so weave imprints from the basket would be pressed into the bowl.
“It was not a long-lived technique,” Eaton said.
A few jugs in the exhibit show how a woven basket can be made water-tight with piñon pitch.
The modern pieces by famous Native American artists, who have learned basketry from their family, blend traditional and contemporary designs.
“People’s personalities are informing a lot more of the modern artistic design,” Eaton said.
For example, baskets depict horses and the modern people traveling through the Four Corners.
The exhibit includes Ute Mountain Ute and Navajo artists. While there is some overlap in their technique, the two tribes view their art differently, Thomson said.
Ute Mountain Ute baskets are more functional, while the Navajo use baskets as ceremonial and commercial pieces, she said.