Aboriginal Bowls and Baskets


decorated bowl
four coolamons  

The baskets and bowls used by the Aborigines have changed over the years, with less stress being put on the traditional handmade fiber baskets and wooden bowls. While the baskets and bowls still play a large part in Aboriginal culture, the traditional ways of making them has fallen by the wayside with the introduction of more modern technologies. This page will concentrate on the traditional ways that these baskets and bowls were made and used.


The fibers that were needed to make beautiful baskets were taken from the plants and trees with which the Aborigines were familiar. The items used most often were leaves and stems from grass-like plants, the bark of some trees and palm leaves. After obtaining these raw materials, the Aborigines would use several techniques in order to separate the usable fibrous materials from the rest of the vegetation. Some of these techniques included:

soaking the materials until the unusable parts disintegrate away

the stems of grass-like materials were split and dried

steaming and then chewing to remove the starch in stems

the inner bark of a tree was the easiest to prepare usually just needing to be separated from the outer bark

 Once the fibers were obtained they were then arranged and sewn together.


Collecting fruit

Water containers

Collecting seeds

Baby baskets

Helping wash poisonous materials from food by allowing water to pass through, taking the poison with it



Aboriginal bowls come in different varieties. There are the ones that are carved out of wood, and there are ones that are made just from the bark of a tree, called Coolamons. Coolamons were extremely useful in aboriginal life. They were made by cutting the outline of the bowl into the bark and then peeling it from the tree in one piece. This process would leave the tree scarred. After the bark was obtained, it was then heated to make it pliable and the ends were folded upwards.



Carrying bush foods

Separating grass seeds from their husks

Storage of food and water


coolamon painted with crocodile

Want to buy some Coolamons or other Aboriginal materials?
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Page designed by Peter Horn, Lehman College 2004