History Matrix
  - Sources
History of...
  - Ballooning
  - Civil War in Albuquerque
  - Land Grants
  - Neighborhoods
  - Place Names
  - Sports
  - Railroad Boom
  - New Deal Economy
  - Modern Economy
  - City History
  - Cultural History
  - Recommended Books
  - Task Force
Native American Art & Leisure
Native American Art and Leisure

For early people, life centered around hunting and gathering food, avoiding predators and illness, building temporary camps and shelters, and keeping warm. Because few artifacts remain from the earliest periods, we know their artistry primarily by the beauty and precision of flaked stone tools, and later, fragments of basketry, sandals and decorated wood and bone tools, and drilled seeds used in jewelry.

As a more settled, agricultural economy developed, they had more possessions, and we see greater artistry in goods produced for everyday living, social occasions and ceremonial use. With food being harvested, processed, and stored on-site, there was more time to learn and specialize in a number of crafts.

Pueblo People made coiled pottery jars and bowls for cooking, storing, and serving food and water. They used fine clay and a tempering material that prevented them from shrinking and cracking. Serving dishes were often painted with contrasting decorations before firing. Design motifs included water, weather, plants and animals. Organic pigments, such as black paint made from the Rocky Mountain bee plant, and mineral-based paints, such as pigment made from hematite, were used. From about A.D. 1300 to the 1700s, Pueblo potters in the central Río Grande area produced glaze paint by grinding up lead from local galena.

Weaving has been known to the Río Grande pueblos since before the cultivation of cotton. Blankets and clothing were woven from cultivated cotton and native plant and animal fibers; it is thought that the Pueblo weavers were familiar with almost every form of weaving, including complicated openwork patterns, basketry weaving techniques for containers and sandals, and turkey feather or rabbit fur blankets. Most Pueblo weavers switched to wool shortly after the introduction of sheep by the Spanish; however, cotton continued to be grown and woven in the Albuquerque area. Navajo weavers probably switched to wool sometime after the Pueblo Revolt.

Jewelry making was another important artistic endeavor. As early as the Late Archaic, around A.D. 350, ancestral Pueblo jewelers shaped strings of alternating, multicolored segments of stone and shell making necklaces, ear loops, and bracelets. They were made with stone and antler tools, drills of wood and flaked stone or cactus spines, wood or stone abraders, sand abrasives, and handspun fiber cordage. Freshwater shells were acquired locally; marine shells were traded from the Gulf or Pacific Coasts. Turquoise was mined locally and made into mosaic jewelry; animal teeth and bones were also used with minimal modification. Potsherds were also shaped and drilled for use as pendants, and for gaming pieces to fill leisure time.

Two-dimensional painting flourished in the form of kiva mural paintings during the Río Grande Classic Period, about A.D. 1325-1540. This period saw increasing importance placed on concept, subject matter and technology. At Kuaua Pueblo, the paintings were made on a top layer of plaster consisting of calcareous material, iron-stained quartz, and sand mixed with water to create a reddish-brown ground for the paintings. Pigments included charcoal for black, kaolin for white, limonite for yellow, azurite for blue, and various iron oxides for the reds. The designs demonstrate that while the motifs were often intentionally stylized, their painters understood the concepts of color, perspective, scale and three-dimensional relationships.

Rock Art
More than 25,000 petroglyphs are located along a 17-mile volcanic escarpment (now Petroglyph National Monument) above the west side of the Río Grande. It’s one of the largest concentrations of prehistoric rock art sites in the country. Petroglyphs are images pecked into dark rock surfaces that can still be seen in their original, natural surroundings. Some may date back 3,000 years; others range from about A.D. 1300 to 1680. Their dramatic designs preserve the roots of contemporary Pueblo religious iconography; many images serve as prehistoric records of important spiritual beings present in Pueblo ceremonies today.
  ©2008 All rights reserved