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Cane baskets and pit-fired pottery

Splitting river cane to make cane for basket-making.We also learned about two other intriguing Native American crafts at the Moundville festival --- cane baskets and pit-fired pottery.  The lady on the right is splitting a piece of river cane (a native bamboo) in half, then in half again.  Next, she will shave the top off each quarter to make a strong, slender cane perfect for basket-weaving.

River cane used to be ubiquitous throughout the South, and Native Americans put it to good use, turning the canes into baskets, spears, shelters, and much more.  I was inspired by the demonstration to work harder at planting our own mini cane brake where the power line cut creates an opening in our floodplain forest.
Pit-firing pottery.Crowds of school children pushed us onward, past the basket-weaver to the pit-fired pottery demonstration.  I took pottery classes in high school and college and loved the feel of mud on my hands, but always found the kiln infrastructure too daunting to try on my own.  Native Americans, of course, used simpler techniques than electric kilns.  Instead, they dug shallow pits about a foot deep, placed pots on a mound in the center, and built a fire around the edges.  The fire starts small, but is slowly allowed to engulf the pots over the course of five to six hours, turning the pots first black then back to clay color.  Again, I resolved to try to mine a bit of the clay along our creekbank and give pit-firing a shot.

This post is part of our Moundville and Cruise to Mexico honeymoon series.  Read all of the entries:

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