Although this vessel shows cracks and wear, the quality of its painted surface and design composition make it a great example of prehistoric Southwestern ceramic art. Thick black carbon paint was applied to its highly burnished red iron oxide slipped surface. The pattern of solid black fringed or stepped spirals interlocking with fine-line hatched spirals is traditional to White Mountain Red Ware decoration. The pot also features triangles and dotted circle motifs.
This jar comes from the Anasazi peoples. The Anasazi were an ancient Native American culture that inhabited the Southwestern United States. They created pottery that they buried with their dead or used for cooking and for storing water and food. When the Spanish settled in the Southwest beginning in the seventeenth century, traditional burials were ended by church authorities. However, since that time, the styles and techniques of Anasazi pottery have continued to develop through the Pueblo Indians who trace their culture back to the Anasazi.
To make pottery, the Anasazi mixed wet balls of clay with crushed pottery, sand, or rock. Then, potters rolled these balls of clay into long, thin coils that were laid one on top of the other on a preformed base. The coils were then smoothed down to seal the walls of the pot. Then, the clay was left out to dry and fired in an outdoor kiln. Paint was later applied to fired vessels.
Pottery is an important cultural tradition to the native peoples of the American Southwest. The earliest pottery in the region dates back to 2500 BC. This jar dates between 1125 and 1200 AD. It is known as a Wingate Black-on-Red Jar. Wingate bowls and jars are early White Mountain Red Wares and were popular items for trade among the Anasazi. They were often used as offerings in outdoor shrines and have been found stored in caves or other remote locations throughout the Anasazi region.
Anasazi cultural practices, such as burying the dead with pots, were largely banned after the Spanish settlement of the American Southwest in the seventeenth century. However, Pueblo potters who descended from the Anasazi continued to make utilitarian pots using traditional motifs and patterns under Spanish and American rule. After the transcontinental railroad reached New Mexico in 1880, Pueblo potters began to make their work available for commercial sale and local use. Fueled by the belief that Pueblo culture was disappearing, ethnologists and anthropologists descended on the region greatly increasing the commercial value of Pueblo pottery and making it widely available for study. Today, many pueblos have been converted into Pueblo cultural centers or tourist sites, and Pueblo potters continue to develop the practices followed by their ancestors.
The Anasazi were an ancient Native American culture that inhabited what is known as the Four Corners region of the United States. This area encompasses parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.
The Anasazi are sometimes referred to as the Ancient Pueblo Peoples. The word Anasazi means “the ancients” in the Hopi language. Pueblo, the Spanish word for “town,” is the name most often used for homes built by the Anasazi. These homes were built adjacent to cliff faces, and long ladders were often required to reach their entrances. Pueblo also refers to the contemporary Native American group in the Southwest that traces their roots back to the Anasazi.
1. Look for patterns and shapes that repeat on this jar. What words would you use to describe these patterns and shapes?
2. Similar to music and dance moves, works of art can have visual rhythm. What does it mean for a work of art to have rhythm? Does this jar have rhythm? Justify your response with things you see and a sketch of where you see rhythm.
3. Ceramics like this storage jar offer archaeologists and ethnographers tools for researching ancient civilizations. Because pottery is made of durable, weather-resistant clay, it is more capable of withstanding time and natural elements than artwork made of wood, canvas, or other materials. What objects are made of long-lasting or durable materials today, and what might they tell archeologists in the future who are studying our civilization.
1. Patterns abound in works of art throughout the DMA collections. Compare the patterns on Storage Jar to the patterns seen on the following artworks:
from the Ndebele peoples of South Africa
2. Vessels of various kinds have been important to cultures around the world and across time. This jar, for instance, is decorated with traditional Anasazi patterns passed from generation to generation. Create a clay vessel decorated with motifs and patterns important to you or to the culture you come from. As you do so, consider the role pottery has played in cultures around the world. Also consider what function your vessel will serve and how you can best design it for its purpose.
3. The artist who made this jar applied two-dimensional patterns to the surface of a three-dimensional form. Imagine that you have two vessel forms to decorate. One form is angular and one form is rounded. Draw several patterns to decorate each form, keeping the vessel’s shape in mind as you do this. Consider and discuss with classmates the relationships between the patterns and the forms. Which patterns seem to best accentuate each form?
4. Words we use to discuss the visual details on this jar, such as pattern and rhythm, are also frequently used when talking about poetry. Consider how poetry and visual art can be similar and how they are different. Then, create a poem whose pattern and rhythm is inspired by the pattern and rhythm on this jar. Consider writing a concrete poem about the jar. Hint: a concrete poem, also sometimes called a shape poem, is one where the graphic arrangement of the poem is closely connected with its meaning and subject.
Brody, J.J. The Anasazi: Ancient Indian People of the American Southwest. New York: Rizzoli, 1990.
Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection. Dallas, 1997.
Ferguson, William M. The Anasazi of Mesa Verde and the Four Corners. Niwot, Colo.: University Press of Colorado, 1996.
Peckham, Stewart. From This Earth: The Ancient Art of Pueblo Pottery. Santa Fe, New Mexico: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1990.
Penney, David W. Native American Art. New York: Hugh Lauter Levin, Associates, Inc. 1994.
Books for Students:
Bishop, Amanda and Bobbie Kalman. Life in a Pueblo (Native Nations of North America). New York: Crabtree Publishing Company, 2003.
Flanagan, Alice K. The Pueblos (True Books: American Indians). Hartford: Children’s Press, 1998.
McDermott, Gerald. Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale. New York: Puffin, 1977.
This document discusses cultural sensitivity when talking about Native Americans.
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This website discusses the cultures in the Colorado Plateau region of the Southwest.
This website discusses a number of different Native American cultures.
These teaching materials are designed for fourth grade audiences.