Extensive archaeological basketry and textile assemblages recovered from throughout western North America have facilitated development of some of the longest and most well-dated chronologies for these crafts in the world. This situation provides a unique opportunity to study continuity and change in these dynamic but highly perishable craft traditions over many millennia. Drawing on the archaeological database and ethnographic literature, this contribution considers factors that affect the spread of, and innovation in, textile techniques and forms through time and space. Social learning emerges as an important concept that allows us to contextualize craft conservatism and change, and also provides a key bridging concept for the study of past social boundaries and identities. Improving our knowledge of the social learning context of textile production will be crucial to future research, but enhancing this understanding will require directed technological, experimental, and ethnoarchaeological research.
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