Genuine Small Papago Olla Basket

The most common traditional shape of the Pima Basket was a fairly shallow bowl with a slightly rounded bottom and flaring sides, approximately fifteen inches in diameter and five inches in height. This was ideal for important task of winnowing and parching wheat. The size of the basket varied considerably for use in other household chores, such as collecting and preparing squash, pumpkins, roots, beans, wild spinach, and fruits of the various cacti. A very special deep large basket was used to hold tiswin, a liquor made from the saguaro fruit. This was gathered in June, the harvest marking the beginning of the Pima year.

As an old Pima woman once said, "They used to line the basket with mesquite pitch so they could put liquor in it. They would put the stew in a large basket, and everyone would dip in with their hands, even the children. People put back in the bowl what they couldn't eat. They would take all the bones and dry them up on the roof and use them again. They still had their flavor. They were not afraid of flies in those days.

 

Baskets were also carried on the head in the Basket Dance. These were not used for food.

The utilitarian baskets have long ago been abandoned for the more easily obtained metal kitchen wares, although the traditional shapes are still woven for the tourist or collectors. Other forms, such as plaques, shallow or deep bowls with straight sides, narrow necked ollas and minature baskets are examples of experimentations by the weavers.