• Two fish traps, North Thailand

    Two fish traps, North Thailand

    Country and Eastern, Photo: Pete Huggins, Camera Techniques

  • Fish trap

    Fish trap

    Ghana, The Horniman Museum London, © Heini Schneebeli

Humans have successfully exploited the natural world for tens of thousands of years. Initially used for harvesting and preparing food from the wild, basketry was adapted for controlling domesticated animals and for agricultural processes in settled societies.

Basketry is still widely used to make protective structures such as fences, pens and houses. It also has a long history as a means of catching prey; basketry fish traps, rat traps, lobster pots and fishing weirs are common in many cultures around the globe. Equally, basketry is employed for the storage and processing of foodplants such as rice, wheat and cassava and to transport goods to and from the marketplace.

The manufacture of these structures varies enormously. A fisherman may make and mend his own pots and traps, sometimes out at sea. Yet a basket such as the herring cran was also an official measure, produced on an industrial scale, subject to rigorous external control, and had to be discarded when damaged. While some production practices involve strict regulation other objects on display are constructed and repaired with a more individual and inventive approach.

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