Acomita circa 1850s Polychrome Jar with Parrot Design


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Pueblo Potter Unknown

Somewhere, sometime, somebody established names for different periods of pueblo pottery.  Excavations at prehistoric sites unearthed hundreds of years of pottery examples and names were assigned to each period.

At today’s occupied pueblos, archaeological excavations have generally not been permitted.  One very limited excavation permitted at Acoma in the early 20th century revealed that earlier pottery was decorated glazewaredesigns applied with a paint containing lead ore.  From excavated examples Frank Harlow was able to extrapolate that Acoma glazeware spanned the years from 1300 to 1700.

Pottery naming is not arbitrary but is comprised of two partsfirst word being place of origin and the second being an attribution.  Starting after the period of glazeware at 1700, the first category at Acoma is Ako Polychrome, 1700-1820Ako being the official name of Acoma Pueblo and Polychrome being more than two colors.  Next is Acomita Polychrome, 1780-1850, Acomita being one of the farming villages at the base of the mesa.  Lastly, there is Acoma Polychrome, 1840 to present, Acoma being the current accepted name of the pueblo today.

This jars appears to be on the cusp of Acomita Polychrome and Acoma Polychrome typologies.  The two categories overlap in the mid-1800s and that appears to be the period of this jar.  The jar does not possess the vessel shape of early Acomita Polychrome jars but its shape is closer to those from the early period of Acoma Polychrome. It has a mid-body bulge that curves upward to a simpler neck. Acomita jars are very globular and have a distinctive collar neck. 

This jar has the weight and thick vessel walls associated with Acomita Polychrome jars. Acoma Polychrome jars, particularly 20th-century ones, have very thin walls and are very light in weight.  

Marking on Bottom of this JarDesigns on both periods of pottery are all over the scale because designs were the product of individual potters and much creativity has been observed in the many jars collected from both periods.  The use of parrots on jars is more related to early Acoma Polychrome than to late Acomita Polychrome. The parrot design was not necessarily a result of Spanish influence, which it has been tied to by some observers.  Colorful birds such as macaws were at Acoma before the arrival of Spanish Conquistadores.  Trade with Mexican Indians was well established before 1600.  Acoma potters were familiar with colorful birds but, still, parrots are seen on more pots after 1880 than on those of an earlier date.

In summary, the vessel shape of this jar is closely related to those of early Acoma Polychrome rather than to late Acomita Polychrome.  The weight of the jar and the wall thickness are more associated with Acomita Polychrome than with Acoma Polychrome.  The parrot design appears more similar to mid-1800s Acoma Polychrome design than to designs on most Acomita Polychrome jars. Based on these observations, this jar appears to be in the transitional period of the two typologiesdating between 1840 and 1860.

Condition: a section broke out of the rim and has been glued back in place.  There is some abrasion to the painted design.

Reference and Recommended Reading: The Pottery of Acoma Pueblo by Harlow and Lanmon

Provenance: from the collection of a prominent Santa Fe family.

Close up view

Pueblo Potter Unknown
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