A basket is a container which is traditionally constructed from stiff fibres, which can be made from a range of materials, including wood splints, runners, and cane. While most baskets are made from plant materials, other materials such as horsehair, baleen, or metal wire can be used. Baskets are generally woven by hand. Some baskets are fitted with a lid, others are left open.
The plant life available in a region affects the choice of material, which in turn influences the weaving technique. Rattan and other members of the Arecaceae or palm tree family, the thin grasses of temperate regions, and broad-leaved tropical bromeliads each require a different method of twisting and braiding to be made into a basket. The practice of basket making has evolved into an art. Artistic freedom allows basket makers a wide choice of colors, materials, sizes, patterns, and details.
Baskets serve utilitarian as well as aesthetic purposes. Some baskets are ceremonial, that is religious, in nature. While baskets are typically used for storage and transport, specialized baskets are as sieves, for cooking, for processing seeds or grains, for tossing gambling pieces, rattles, fans, fish traps, laundry, and other uses.
Archaeological sites in the Middle East show that weaving techniques were used to make mats and possibly also baskets, circa 8000 BCE. Twined baskets date back to 7000 BCE in Oasisamerica. Baskets made with interwoven techniques were common at 3000 BCE.
Figurative and literary usage
The phrase "to hell in a handbasket" means to rapidly deteriorate. The origin of this use is unclear. "Basket" is sometimes used as an adjective towards a person who is born out of wedlock. This occurs more commonly in British English. "Basket" also refers to a bulge in a man's crotch.
Ethiopian woman gathering coffee beans in a basket
Seri Indian pot-shaped basket (Northern Mexico)
Bending vines for basket construction - Pohnpei
Traditional western Hubei baskets (China)
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- Baskets, The Women's Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art