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Material Culture

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Lapena states that houses were constructed by placing poles in a conical shape and covering them with bark. Earthlodges were also used as a men's place for sweating, places where bachelors slept in winter, and for shamans's initiation ceremonies (325).

In 1880, George Redding attended a Wintu ceremony held in a sweathouse, and he provided the following description of the structure:

In the center of the rancheria was the temescal, or sweathouse. It was constructed by digging a large circular, basin-shaped hole in the ground, four or five feet deep. Around the edge of this hole large posts are sunk, about five feet apart, which extend upward to the top of the ground. In the center are planted four large trunks of trees, with the original limbs upon them, extending a few feet above the surface. From these four trees stout limbs of trees are laid, reaching to the posts at the edge. These limbs are fastened firmly by withes to the branches at the center trees. The whole is then thatched with pine and willow brush, and covered with a layer of earth about a foot in thickness. The entrance is a long, low passage, and is made by driving short, thin pine posts side by side, about three feet apart, and covered in the same manner as the house proper. To enter, one has to stoop quite low, and continue in this position until he comes into the sweathouse. (343)
The Wintu used a variety of plant materials in their daily lives. Grasses were fashioned into baskets for cooking, storage, transporting goods, sifting, and as dishes. Bows for hunting were made of yew wood. Ash wood was used to make pipes. Logs were placed across streams for bridges, and wooden rafts were used for stream crossings.

Obsidian was used for arrowheads and other sharp cutting type tools. Red and white were preferred over other colors of obsidian, and red obsidian was considered to possess a supernatural poison.

The Wintu utilized everything from the animals and fish they killed. Salmon skin was used as glue to attach arrowheads to arrow shafts. Bow strings were made by twisting the sinew of deer backbone. Daggers were made of deer bone (used only for fighting) and large 10" daggers were fashioned from bears' foreleg bones. Quivers were made of hides. Clothing and blankets were made of deer, fox and rabbit animal skins (Lapena 334-336).


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