pottery sherds
Pottery sherds

Bandelier Collections

Continuing Traditions With Clay

"We have multitudes of symbols – corn blossom, squash blossom, eagle and deer, rainbow and fire, and storm cloud; the design of plants, of all living things; the underworld which gave forth man and all the creatures – symbols whose secret meanings are only secret because they are within and cannot be easily expressed."

— Popovi Da, San Ildefonso Pueblo

Over time, pottery changed as lifestyles changed. As the Ancestral Pueblo people began to settle into communities, pottery became a practical tool. It was used for cooking, serving, storing, and carrying.

painting pottery
Precise, hand-painted pottery designs symbolize important elements of Pueblo culture.

photo by sally king

Pots of Many Uses
Ancestral Pueblo potters made undecorated cooking pots which quickly became fire-blackened. Those for storing and serving food were often painted. Dried foods, seeds for planting, and other perishable items were stored in very large, sealed pots for protection against rodents, insects, and moisture. They were also made for carrying and storing water.

Mastering Pottery-making
Today, as in Ancestral Pueblo times, the pottery-making process is time intensive and requires in-depth skill and knowledge. Potters locate sources of clay and master the processes of coiling and firing. They collect specific plants and minerals to create intricate designs. Every generation watches and learns this tradition from their elders.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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