San Ildefonso Terrace Rim Historic Pottery Jar with Walking Sun and Rain Symbology


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Potter Once Known

This small mug-size footed jar has four terraced rims stepped to resemble mountains; a shape generally associated with ceremonial vessels. The vessel walls expand outward as they rise with a more pronounced flare as the terraces form. The footed pedestal is rarely seen on secular vessels but is not uncommon on ceremonial ones. The overall white slip was a standard practice on ceremonial vessels. Terrace designs have been used on Tewa ceremonial vessels since 1650 or earlier, but it was not until 1870 that terraced rims were carved into the vessels. [Harlow, 1965:18]

There are two painted designs on the exterior wall, each repeated on opposing sides. One of the designs is a rain symbol—a triangle drawn with black pigment with the outlining black lines filled with orange slip. Attached to the upper walls are smaller black triangles, also filled with orange, and to the lower black line are symbols of rain similarly drawn with black and filled with orange slip. Water symbols are often used on ceremonial vessels.

The surprising design is that of the other two matching elements. It is a six-legged wheel with extensions at their ends. This has been described as "the walking sun." This design was a common one on Anasazi pottery, related to the movement of the sun. There are examples of Anasazi pottery in the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, Santa Fe, with walking sun designs. There are similar designs on older Navajo baskets. There appears to be a relationship of Ancestral Puebloan pottery designs and Ancestral Navajo basket designs. [Simpson, 2003:24-25]

This small jar is most likely a pseudo-ceremonial vessel, one made for sale and not for true ceremonial use. There is no evidence of prior use of this one and it is probably a twentieth century piece destined for the collector market.

Condition: excellent condition

Provenance: this San Ildefonso Terrace Rim Historic Pottery Jar with Walking Sun and Rain Symbology is from a private collection


- Simpson, Georgiana Kennedy. Navajo Ceremonial Baskets: Sacred Symbols Sacred Space, Native Voices Publisher, 2003

- Harlow, Francis H. “Tewa Indian Ceremonial Pottery” in El Palacio, Vol. 72, No. 4, Winter 1965.

TAGS: Southwest Indian PotterySan Ildefonso PuebloHistoric PotteryAnasazi - Ancestral Pueblo

Alternate view showing much of the inside stone polish.

Potter Once Known
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