Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures
> PEABODY MUSEUM ARTIFACTS   > TATAVIAM CULTURE
Tataviam Coiled Basket or Bowl
Bowers Cave | Peabody Museum

PEABODY MUSEUM

SCV Artifact Index

thumbnail

TL0002

thumbnail

TL0003

thumbnail

JJ1001

thumbnail

PB39242

thumbnail

PB39243

thumbnail

PB39250

thumbnail

4 Baskets, Mason (1904)

thumbnail

PB39261

thumbnail

PB39262, PB39264

thumbnail

PB39267

thumbnail

PB64811

thumbnail

PB65763

thumbnail

TL0001

Tataviam coiled basket or bowl, found in Bowers Cave in the San Martin Mountains (present-day Val Verde area) in 1884. In the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Peabody Catalog No. 39250.

5 inches in diameter, 2.5 inches tall. Juncus wefts with alternating grass-bundle and 3-rod juncus foundation. Archaeological.

Peabody's description reads:

Small basket from a cave in the San Martin Mountains, outside of Los Angeles, Southern California. Gift of Dr. Stephen Bowers, 1885.

Elsasser and Heizer (1963) describe this basket as follows:

This is the best preserved specimen in the entire collection of basketry from Bowers Cave. The point of change in structure of the foundation from grass bundle to rods can plainly be seen ... about 4 coiling courses from the bottom. When the rim of the basket was reached by the maker, the grass bundle foundation was again utilized. Double stitching occurs here and there throughout the rod-foundation part of the basket ... especially at the beginning near the lower one-third of the specimen.

This basket is depicted in color in Shanks and Shanks (2010). Their photo caption reads:

... [T]his globular bowl is so well preserved we can clearly see its juncus wefts and three-rod juncus foundation.


Shanks and Shanks (2010) reexamine the Bowers Cave[1] basketry (pp. 52-57). They disagree with Elsasser and Heizer's (1963) conclusion that the Bowers Cave specimens are Chumash rather than Tataviam (who in 1963 were called Alliklik)[2].

"Our study ... supports a Tataviam attribution," Shanks et al. write (pg. 54), and their examination rejects a Chumash origin.

They note that "Tataviam basketry is known solely from archaeological basketry"[3]; thus any attribution must be determined through a comparison to known basketry types of neighboring cultures.

"Tataviam coiled basketry ... was closest technologically to that of the Gabrielino/Tongva (to the south) and inland Chumash (to the west). Yet there was a distinctive mix of features that set Tataviam coiled basketry apart from all other cultures." Tataviam twined basketry "is less known, but it does have one or more distinctive forms" (pg. 56).

Shanks et al. date the Bowers Cave baskets from 1720 to 1800. Elsasser and Heizer (1963) suggest dates of 1770 (after initial European contact) to 1800. Some references place them in the cave as late as 1810. One theory is that the elders of a local village — perhaps Etseng (Piru Creek drainage) or Chaguayabit/Tsawayung (Castaic Junction) — wanted to preserve their cultural materials in the face of momentous change brought about by the arrival (1769) and establishment (1804) of Spanish missionaries and military in the Santa Clarita Valley. A major conscription of Indians into the missions occurred in 1811.

Per Shanks et al.: Among the Bowers Cave specimens, five coiled baskets have long, bound-under weft fag ends[4], whereas the Chumash usually clipped their fag ends; and one basket's fag ends are tightly pinched into the foundation, which is unlike Chumash or Tongva techniques. Just one Bowers Cave basket has close-trimmed (clipped) fag ends, and this occurs in conjunction with bound-under fag ends.

Five of the coiled baskets have grass bundle foundations, which is common among neighboring cultures, but two have a combination of grass bundle and juncus rod foundations, which is not. Three have a 3-rod juncus foundation. "At least one starting knot in the Bowers Cave group is unlike any known Chumash starting knots" (pg. 54).

Just one Bowers Cave basket has a design; it's the mortar hopper, and while its 3-rod juncus foundation is relatively common, its pattern — three parallel bands intersected by narrow vertical lines — "is not typical of Chumash or Gabrielino/Tongva designs."

Some of the basket shapes would be unusual for the Chumash or Tongva, including one with a flaring side and protruding rounded upper portion; and others with a long, inward-trending neck (pg. 54).

Shanks et al. conclude (pg. 54): "Given the departure of Bowers Cave and Piru Creek baskets from typical Chumash and Gabrielino/Tongva baskets and being clearly found within Tataviam territory, they are most certainly Tataviam. This is not because we know from documented ethnographic baskets what Tataviam baskets were like. We do not. But we do know what their neighbors' baskets were like. We can rule out the likelihood of neighboring groups making these baskets. When we also see unique combinations of features and consider that these baskets are archaeologically from Tataviam territory, the case for the baskets being Tataviam is strong.


1. Bowers Cave, named for 19th-century anthropologist Stephen Bowers, is located on the current Chiquita Canyon Landfill property just outside the residential community of Val Verde in the San Martin Mountains.

2. Shanks and Shanks' Tataviam chapter was read prior to publication by Dr. John Johnson of the Santa Barbara Natural History Museum. Johnson, an expert in Tataviam archaeology and ethnology, agrees with the Tataviam attribution for the Bowers Cave specimens.

3. The authors discuss two baskets in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County that come from the Del Valle family of Rancho Camulos. Although they are possibly Tataviam, "the cultural origin of both baskets is unknown" (pg. 53, fn.). They also discuss the two baskets in the SCV Historical Society collection that are attributed to Sinforosa Fustero, seen here and here, and note that they are likely trade items. Her coiled basket exhibits eastern characteristics, possibly Kawaiisu or Panamint Shoshone — although we don't really know what Tataviam basketry design characteristics would be, other than what's seen on the unusual mortar hopper from Bowers Cave.

4. In weaving, the fag end is the beginning of the weft, or strand, that is either coiled or twined around the warp. In basketry, a bound-under fag end is bound under some of the new weft stitches on the work surface of the basket. In Southern California, the work surface is almost always the inside, unless the basket is tiny or has a narrow neck. (The tail end of a weft is called the moving end.)


PB39250: 19200 dpi jpeg from smaller jpeg from 2.25-inch photographic negative; Peabody photo No. 2004.24.42559 (1985).
TATAVIAM ARTIFACTS

Bowers Cave

Peabody Museum Index


thumbnail

Bowers Cave Specimens (Mult.)

thumbnail

Bowers on Bowers Cave 1885

thumbnail

Stephen Bowers Bio

thumbnail

Bowers Cave: Perforated Stones (Henshaw 1887)

thumbnail

Bowers Cave: Van Valkenburgh 1952

• Bowers Cave Inventory (Elsasser & Heizer 1963)


thumbnail

Tony Newhall 1984

• Chiquita Landfill Expansion DEIR 2014: Bowers Cave Discussion

Agua Dulce

thumbnail

Vasquez Rock Art x8

thumbnail

Ethnobotany of Vasquez, Placerita (Brewer 2014)

thumbnail

Bowl x5

thumbnail

Basketry Fragment

Acton

thumbnail

Blum Ranch (Mult.)

thumbnail

Little Rock Creek

Castaic Area

thumbnail

Fish Canyon Bedrock Mortars & Cupules x3

thumbnail

2 Steatite Bowls, Hydraulic Research 1968

thumbnail

Steatite Cup, 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig x5

thumbnail

Ceremonial Bar, 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig x4

thumbnail

Projectile Points (4), 1970 Elderberry Canyon Dig

thumbnail

Paradise Ranch Earth Oven

Piru Creek

Lopez Report 1974


thumbnail

Twined Water Bottle x14

thumbnail

Twined Basketry Fragment

thumbnail

Grinding Stones, Camulos

Newhall Area

thumbnail

Arrow Straightener

thumbnail

Pestle

Tejon Area

thumbnail

Basketry x2

thumbnail

Coiled Basket 1875

Other

thumbnail

Riverpark, aka River Village (Mult.)

thumbnail

Riverpark Artifact Conveyance

thumbnail

Tesoro (San Francisquito) Bedrock Mortar

thumbnail

Mojave Desert: Burham Canyon Pictographs

thumbnail

Leona Valley Site (Disturbed 2001)

thumbnail

2 Baskets

thumbnail

So. Cal. Basket

thumbnail

Biface, Haskell Canyon

thumbnail

2 Mortars, 2 Pestles, Bouquet Canyon

RETURN TO TOP ]   RETURN TO MAIN INDEX ]   PHOTO CREDITS ]   BIBLIOGRAPHY ]   BOOKS FOR SALE ]
SCVHistory.com is another service of SCVTV, a 501c3 Nonprofit • Site contents ©SCVTV • Additional copyrights apply