New Mexico Art Tells its History

History: Arts and Crafts

In both the mountains and desert basins, the Mogollon gathered plant fibers and barks. They wove the plant fibers, turning them into baskets, sandals and cradles, and fleshed and cured hides, sewing them into clothing. The women gathered clay from nearby sources, coiled clay "ropes" into various vessel shapes, polished the moist surfaces with scrapers and smooth stones, added minimal if any decoration on the brown or reddish surfaces, and fired the vessels in hot coals.

A typical Mogollon family’s household possessions would include plain brown or reddish ceramic bowls, pots, jars and other vessels; yucca-or stool-fiber woven baskets and cradles; grinding and crushing stones; fire drills and tongs; and grass beds, reed or straw mats, and feather or rabbit fur blankets. Individual possessions could include clothing made from animal skins or plant fibers; shoes and belts made from woven yucca fibers: pendants, necklaces, rings and bracelets made from shell, bone or semi-precious stones; awls, needles, fleshing tools, flaking tools and other tools made from bone; projectile points, drills, knives, choppers, axes and scrapers chipped from stone; and atlatl-spear-thrower-weights, balls, disks and pipes made from ground stone.

The Ancestral Pueblo people did not make and use pottery until centuries after their southern neighbors did, but they did raise the ancient craft of basket making to a high art. They made one style of basket from tightly coiled pliable plant fibers and another from plaited plant fiber, and fashioned their baskets into a wide array of shapes and sizes, often incorporating elaborate designs into the texture. The baskets were used not only for carriage of possessions, preparation of meals and offerings in burials, but also for sifting of seeds and flour, storage of grain and personal and ceremonial items, and the transportation of water.

Their early pottery was at first, a simple gray ware with a corrugated surface, and later, decorated gray and white wares. As their villages grew, they turned increasingly to pottery as their containers and cooking vessels of choice, and their age-old skills in basket making began to decline. 

Desert USA

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