This article discusses the basket inventory of the Palu’e (Palu’e Island, eastern Indonesia) in the comparative framework of the Flores linguistic-cultural chain. Fibers, technique, and usage are identified, with notes on current distribution and skill transmission. The basketry is made of lontar leaves by women, who are also responsible for the agricultural products that the baskets are mainly used for. The most common function and shared denominator of smaller basket types in the Palu’e-Flores cultures, shown with the aid of museum collection items, is to keep betel for chewing, highlighting its tremendous cultural importance. Decoration is limited to triangular curls/twists on mad weave (dense triaxial) works, while smoking adds color and makes the basketry more durable. Only the ceremonial head-strapped betel basket, common also on Flores, is decorated with supplementary objects, such as beads. This basket only is made with one of the other two main techniques, oblique checker work and twill. All the basketry, with few exceptions, is still in wide use, but makers of more intricate works tend to be elderly. Comparison with baskets on the main island of Flores shows that Palu’e basketry is a close affine to this tradition but with locally distinctive features. Future comparative research could consider geographic and linguistic proximity in cultural contacts as a significant element in skill transmission, which is otherwise vertical (via closest kin), and relationships with migration patterns to and from Flores.
Keywords: basketry, Palu’e, Flores, plaited crafts, lontar