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“The Origins of Pottery”

Southwest Crossroads Spotlight

Keres Water Jar“Keres Water Jar,” Unidentified (Artist)

Small bands of indigenous peoples roamed the American Southwest between 10,000 BCE and 1000 CE. They moved around following game and gathering whatever plants were in season. They may have carried their belongings and foodstuffs in baskets.

People brought corn, or maize, to the American Southwest from northern Mexico sometime around 1000 BCE. The residents of the area began to settle down on small, scattered farms. The Cochise and Oshara peoples of what are now the southern regions of New Mexico and Arizona grew corn. About the same time they learned to make pottery, maybe from their neighbors to the south.

Acoma Polychrome Jar (four colors), ca. 1880-1900“Acoma Polychrome Jar (four colors), ca. 1880-1900,” Unidentified (Artist) Hopi Woman Coiling Clay into Pottery, Oraibi, Arizona, late 1800s“Hopi Woman Coiling Clay into Pottery, Oraibi, Arizona, late 1800s,” Unidentified (Photographer)You’ll need 3-D glasses to view this Anaglyph image. Don’t have a pair? Request 3-D glasses right away!

Pottery-making requires access to clay and temper sources, water, and fuel for firing. Some ancient potters excelled in working the clay. Others mastered design and firing techniques. Throughout the history of the region, Southwestern potters created objects from clay that were both useful and pleasing to the eye.

The social development of the Southwest’s indigenous peoples is closely tied to pottery making. As they honed their skills, learned to create useful objects, and worked together to produce them, they also built more complex societies. Archaeologists today know these people as the Hohokam, Mogollon, and ancestral Pueblos.