I have a mind that loves to find stuff out no matter what it is, and I can’t seem to research anything without getting down to the very bottom of it. One evening as I was shopping online for gifts, I stumbled across an entire world I never even knew existed out there. The world of the basket! I tell you, it is simply fascinating to me to find out that the gift baskets we use today are not much different from the baskets of yore other than maybe the contents. For example, as early as 4,000 BC, Sumerians used baskets to bury their dead. I’m pretty sure we don’t use baskets for that anymore, but you’d be amazed at how the basket evolved into the casket. (That’s a whole other amazing story too.)
The use of baskets is mentioned numerous times in the Bible also. Some examples include when Moses was floated down the river in a basket made of bulrushes, and when Jesus performed the miracle of feeding the masses with a few loaves of bread and several fish, which were found in a young boy’s basket. It is noted that 12 baskets filled with leftovers were gathered after everyone had eaten their fill. Obviously, in ancient times, baskets were used for everyday utilitarian needs and not just for gifts.
During archaeological digs, basket fragments, which date back some 12,000 years, were found in and around Egyptian and Neanderthal excavation sites. Though it’s impossible to know who made the first basket or what exactly inspired him or her to do so, we do know that necessity is the mother of invention, and baskets—used to store food, water, and personal items—were necessities for early man.
Since basket fragments, as well as pollen, have been found entombed in grave sites that date back thousands of years, it’s easy to assume our ancestors cared about their loved ones the way we care about our loved ones. While baskets were indeed used for everyday purposes, it is entirely possible that baskets were also used to hold gifts, in much the same manner as we use gift baskets today. Perhaps early man brought baskets filled with gifts of food and flowers to the graves of their dearly departed as part of their religious beliefs, or perhaps the basket was simply a way to help ease the pain of their loss. We may never know. But regardless of whether early man and modern man are on the same frequency, we know this much to be true: baskets are as important to us today as they were to our ancestors thousands of years ago. And while we will never know who perfected each different basket weave, or who figured out what grasses worked best in the creation of which basket, we do know that baskets are here to stay.
Think about how easy to use and handy a basket actually is. The materials used in the making of baskets are varied and plentiful, and skilled artisans are able to weave beautiful and stunning products into more styles and shapes than can be counted. The most important role baskets play in society, and why baskets have never gone out of style, is the reason they were created in the first place: baskets are necessities. Though modern man has a wide variety of sophisticated means of carrying items from one location to the next and can create any type of storage unit desired, baskets remain popular. It’s easy to understand why. Since their inception in society, baskets have been not only practical, fun, and diverse, but a tangible means of communication. Today, as in days gone by, a basket filled with flowers is still one of the nicest ways to say you care. And what better means for storing layer upon layer of goodies, than the gift baskets that fill the holidays with so much fun and pleasure? Amazing that with all of the technology that abounds in our world, the basket is truly a remarkable invention that has stood the test of time. It certainly should be up on the list there with fire & the wheel don’t you think?
Excerpts taken from: www.basketweaving.com/basket_history.htm; and