Object photography

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Object description

  • Tlingit artist
  • Drinking cup, before 1824
  • Spruce root, grass, maidenhair fern, plant fiber
  • Northwest Coast, North America
  • H: 5 1/8 in, dia.: 3 1/8 in (H: 13.0 cm, dia.: 7.9 cm)
  • Gift of Thomas Meek, 1827
  • E3504
  • Exemplifies important intercultural connections of the 19th century
  • Created in Pacific Northwest Coast, but donated from Hawai'i

This watertight cup, or athele yet ("salt-water cups"), woven by a Tlingit woman, underscores the centrality of the Pacific Northwest Coast as a major international trade hub during the 19th century. This cup belonged to King Kamehameha of Hawai'i prior to its donation to PEM by Kamehameha's business associate.


East India Marine Society Collection


This is a cylindrical, basketry drinking cup. There are two decorative bands above the base with dots above this in a dark brown plant fiber weave on a light brown background. There is a light carrying handle over the top opening. The spruce root material is actually split spruce root. The cup is manufactured to be watertight and was woven by a Tlingit woman. Further Remarks: Finely woven Tlingit spruce-root baskets were watertight and were decorated with a distinctive false-embroidery technique employing grasses and fern stems. The largely geometric designs depicted animals, landforms, cultural objects, or floral elements. This example probably figured in the ritual drinking of seawater, which promoted good health, successful hunting and fishing, and luck in risky activities. This cup was donated by Thomas Meek, who relayed that this once belonged to King Tamahamaha (Kamehameha) of Hawai'i.

Exhibition History

  • Uncommon Legacies: Native American Art from the Peabody Essex Museum, Washington State Historical Society; October 11, 2005 through February 09, 2006