Two principal types of basketry were produced on the Plains in historic times, the twill plaited burden baskets used by horticultural tribes and coiled gambling baskets that saw a wider distribution. Coiled baskets were used in a gambling game, played primarily by women, in which dice were tossed into a basket. Little information on these baskets has been published and collection information for museum specimens is typically very poor. Building on Weltfish's (1930a) initial study, this paper presents additional data on over 80 Plains gambling baskets presently housed in U.S. museums and private collections. Archaeological, ethnohistorical, and technical information, including data from this analysis, supports a southern origin for historic Plains coiled and perhaps plaited basketry. Diffusion of technological features of basketry construction out of areas in northern Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas likely began as much as 3,000 years ago and progressed more rapidly during the last 400 years. It is suggested that the spread of historic Plains basketry is related to a northward spread of agriculture with Caddoan and Siouan language speakers. Eastern Shoshone gambling baskets are viewed as resulting from a separate local basketry tradition with origins in the eastern Great Basin.
- Dice games
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