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The term “olla” is actually a Spanish word adopted by Native Americans to describe either basketry or pottery that had a long, thin neck and a wide body. These particular containers were very useful to them when carrying or storing water because the long thin neck prevented spilling and water evaporation.
Traditionally, olla containers, whether they were ceramic or woven, were used for utilitarian purposes such as hauling water or cooking. Therefore, attention to details and symmetry were not important. When weaving these olla baskets, Native Americans used plant shoots and the outside bark of trees indigenous to the area in which they lived such as three sumac and willow. To enhance these coil style baskets, Native American Indian basket weavers used natural plant dyes made from clay and vegetation. Today, most olla baskets are produced for their aesthetic appeal or commissioned by collectors’.
Some archeologists and historians have suggested the art of pottery is the result of basket weaving. Dating back to ancient times, hand woven baskets were coated in clay mud, allowed to dry, and the basket burned. What was left was used to hold dried corn and other types of food.