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19th Century Zuni Pueblo Polychrome Olla with Heartline Deer


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Potter Unknown

An extremely outstanding Zuni Polychrome olla from around 1870. The jar exhibits all the criteria of a jar of this period. It has a brown rim around the opening and a distinctive puki impression on the underbody. The heartline deer motif, an innovation of the 1860-1870 time period, is prominent on this vessel. It was previously referred to as an antelope, the meaning of which was provided by John G. Bourke in 1881:

The line running down from the animal’s mouth and terminating at its heart may be described as a “prayer.” It is a pictographic invocation to the “spirit of the antelope” to incline the hearts of the antelope on earth to put themselves in the way of the Zunis that they may kill them for food. I made careful inquiries upon this point and know that I have obtained the correct explanation.

The small red birds with hooked tails are noticeably absent on this jar, as they were an innovation in the 1880 time period. The daggerlike elements around the neck are a carry-over from the Kiapkwa period (1750s). The large rosettes on opposing sides of the jar are a unique Zuni motif, and the hooked feathers and spiraltipped crooks outlining the covering over the heartline deer have been used since the deer were introduced.


Condition: very good condition

Provenance: from the collection of a California resident

Recommended Reading: Gifts of Mother Earth: Ceramics in the Zuni Tradition by Margaret Ann Hardin, Ph.d.

Close up view of side panel design.



Potter Unknown
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