Review Essay: Surveying the Pottery Styles of Zia and Santa Ana Pueblos
The Pottery of Zia Pueblo. Francis H. Harlow and Dwight P. Lanmon. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 2003. 372 pp.
The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo. Francis H. Harlow, Duane Anderson, and Dwight P. Lanmon. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 2005. 185 pp.
Karen M. Duffy
neighboring villages of Zia and Santa Ana lie along the Jemez River in
central New Mexico. Sharing key traits of Pueblo culture generally,
both have, for centuries, been producers of the coil-built,
outdoor-fired pottery for which the pueblos are well known, but these
small villages (with populations of 646 and 479 reported, respectively,
in the 2000 census) have received less scholarly attention than some
others, especially Zuni, the Hopi villages, San Ildefonso, Cochiti, and
Acoma. The books under review, offering comprehensive historical
treatments through both text and illustrations, therefore help to fill
real gaps in the literature on Pueblo pottery. By virtue of their
authors and approaches, subjects, and styles of presentation, the books
make a cohesive, even continuous, pair. For that reason, some general
comments seem in order first, and many cross-references will occur
throughout my review. Nonetheless, my intention is to respect the
works’ integrity as distinct studies of different traditions.
principal author of each text is Francis Harlow, a physicist and
painter who has studied and written about Pueblo pottery for more than
40 years. Here, as in his other books, he brings his scientific and
artistic interests to bear on problems of typology and chronology in
historic Pueblo pottery—problems that he defines and approaches in ways
closely related to archaeology and, especially, an object-oriented
school of art history. Indeed, The Pottery of Zia Pueblo
states that its “analyses of individual examples are based more on the
techniques of art history than those of anthropology. There is little
attempt to place these objects in a cultural context or to find meaning
in the decoration and forms of the vessels” (pp.14–15). The statement,
which applies nearly as well to The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo
(though, see the description of its introductory chapters below), might
jolt some readers, but it is in keeping with Harlow’s dedicated
lifework on pottery; as Bruce Bernstein has noted, that work is best
understood as following in the scholarly tradition of Kenneth Chapman,
a Museum of New Mexico curator whose studies in the first half of the
20th century focused on stylistic analyses and sequencing of historic
Pueblo pottery designs (1994:19–20). To anyone
familiar with this line of scholarship and Harlow’s previous
publications, then, the methodology and subsequent nature of these
recent books as broad surveys of artistic styles will be expected.
more surprising is the books’ extension of an historical frame of study
into the present to include current styles and practices. Judging from
brief statements in the books’ texts and notes, this may be largely
attributable to coauthors Dwight Lanmon, who worked on both books, and
Duane Anderson, who worked on the second. For The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo,
Anderson, an archaeologist and ethnohistorian serving as director of
the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture (MIAC) at the time of this study,
conducted on-site interviews and brought potters to Santa Fe to study
collections at both MIAC and the School of American Research; Lanmon,
former director of Winterthur and a longtime collector of Pueblo
pottery, did corresponding work for The Pottery of Zia Pueblo.
The books would be enhanced by greater clarification of how these
various collaborations operated in the analysis of the material (both
current and historic), but what is clear is that the (mostly)
continuous alliance of scholars across the two projects is a primary
reason for the books’ (mostly) consistent, compatible visions.
The Pottery of Zia Pueblo,
the earlier and longer of the works, begins with a brief opening
chapter on Zia’s history and a second chapter on techniques for dating
pottery. The third and fourth chapters lay out the stylistic
development of Zia pottery during the 18th and early 19th centuries,
tracing in incremental steps its changes from Puname Polychrome, a
localized regional type, to San Pablo Polychrome, a type particular to
Zia. Chapters 5 through 13 feature subsequent alterations and
refinements of Zia style. Of these nine chapters, two are devoted to
forms, and seven to major designs and recurring motifs; multiple
variations (in which Pueblo potters take great joy) are shown in
detail, along with connections to similar elements at other pueblos.
Among the designs featured are the well-known Zia birds and rainbow
arcs, but the most important—both at Zia and in Pueblo scholarship—is
what the authors call the “capped spiral,” a geometric design that H.
P. Mera called the “rain bird” and identified as one of the most
pervasive and popular of all Pueblo pottery design structures ( 1970).
Reading these chapters is an exercise in looking, as is true of
Harlow’s work at its best; though descriptions of geometric designs are
often awkward (they might benefit from the kind of symmetry analysis
performed by Dorothy Washburn and Donald Crowe), I still appreciated
the visual challenges and insights presented here. The book concludes
with its most significant contribution, a substantial chapter on
individual potters. Over the course of 75 pages, it offers
entries—including Native names, biographical information, and
descriptions of their work—for 40 Zia potters who lived and worked in
the 20th century. (Much of the biographical data is drawn from other
published sources, but it has been expanded, and many of the potters
included in the present volume have not been known previously outside
the pueblo.) According to the authors’ estimates, these 40 individuals
represent the great majority of all potters who have worked at Zia
since 1900. Even if the estimated percentage is high (it being
notoriously difficult to get a full count of a pueblo’s potters, as
Ruth Bunzel herself observed), the authors’ accomplishments are
impressive. They have filled in an historical record previously left
anonymous, and demonstrated how close scrutiny of pots and consultation
with Native elders and potters (mentioned earlier in the review) can
allow for attribution, albeit sometimes tentative or contested, of
unsigned, undocumented works. Finally, two valuable appendices round
out the book: a list of contemporary potters at Zia, and a set of
documentary photographs from the 1920s, collected by Chapman, of Zia
The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo
is parallel in structure to its companion volume and at times overlaps
with it directly in content. It too has a pair of introductory
chapters. These relate succinct information on the pueblo’s history,
pottery making, and methodologies for studying historic pottery.
Notably, this book’s initial discussion includes a broad overview of
Pueblo history, emphasizing the impact of foreign conquest and
presenting helpful timelines and lists of relevant events. The addition
of this greater perspective, I believe, sets readers up well for
appreciating the changes in pottery about which they will be reading.
Chapters 3, 4, and 5 consider the roots and development of Puname
Polychrome, the localized regional pottery; during its period
(1700–1760), pots made at Santa Ana cannot be distinguished from those
made at Zia by design, form, or materials. At this juncture The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo is most pointedly a continuation of The Pottery of Zia Pueblo:
based on research conducted in the interim between publications, the
authors hypothesize one stylistic feature (i.e., a tendency to leave
motif outlines open-ended rather than to close them off completely)
that might associate specifically with Santa Ana. Two more chapters
present the sequences of wares and styles that developed at Santa Ana
during the 19th and early 20th centuries, rendering its pottery
distinct. However, this pueblo’s pottery tradition was never as varied
or vigorous as its neighbor’s, and after 1910, pottery making there
declined sharply, nearly stopping altogether in the 1920s and 30s. In
its final chapter, The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo
relates the story of three pottery revivals—and the potters involved in
them—that have occurred there since that time; here as in the first
book, the authors have made a significant contribution in the
conclusion of their survey. A pair of appendices follows: a list of
current Santa Ana potters, and an inventory of Santa Ana pots in
museums worldwide. Since pottery from this pueblo is rare, the
inventory will prove useful to scholars and collectors.
Beautifully produced, The Pottery of Zia Pueblo and The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo
are illustrated richly: approximately 700 photographs are in the former
and 350 in the latter. The number and quality of the images alone make
these books valuable resources for those interested in Pueblo pottery.
Conveniently for the reader, the photographs have been placed on the
same page as the text that discusses them; providing further clarity,
labeled drawings of motifs appear in margins beside relevant
paragraphs. Although different presses published these books, a high
standard of visual presentation carries from one to the other because
the same designer, Deborah Flynn Post, and primary photographer, Blair
Clark, were employed for both.
The productions are not flawless, however. In The Pottery of Zia Pueblo,
two figures were dropped from a set of six and the remaining four, as
captioned, do not match with their text descriptions (Fig. 14.24, p.
267). Far more serious is a rash of disasters with the endnotes: four
out of Zia’s 14 chapters are affected, particularly chapters 1 and 2,
where numbers in the text are fewer than, and thus misaligned with, the
notes. In the case of chapter 2, the numbering went awry immediately,
leaving every note one number off. Such errors, obviously computer
generated, should have been caught in proofreading. By contrast, The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo
has no notes at all. If this omission was a reaction to the problems
with the first book, it surely seems odd in a book that aims to speak
to scholars as well as to the general public.
But an even more
fundamental problem mars both books: the unexplained use of Western
names for designs when Pueblo ones exist. This point has been well made
by a previous reviewer of The Pottery of Santa Ana (see Bahti 2005).
That book is most implicated because of its repeated reference to “the
so-called Eiffel Tower design” in use at Santa Ana, but the culturally
inappropriate terminology (and other examples of it mentioned by Mark
Bahti) appear in the Zia study as well. The question, never
acknowledged or addressed, burns: So called by whom? Potters at other
pueblos call the terraced designs “rain clouds” or, sometimes, “steps
of clouds” or “cloud steps.” It is hard to imagine that Santa Ana
potters would be unfamiliar with this fact, but if they are (due to
breaks in their tradition), the text should state this clearly, and
refer to previous scholars—including Jesse Walter Fewkes, Bunzel, and
Mera—who documented cloud names for the design in question. Mera even
proposed a scheme of logical association of Pueblo images ( 1970:6–7)
that might be used to find the connection between “cloud steps” and
alternate names such as “kiva steps”: that is, ceremonies held in the
kiva bid rain-bearing clouds to visit the pueblo. The terraced tablita
(‘dance headdress’) of Pueblo women does the same; in fact, with its
curved base, the tablita resembles the Santa Ana design most closely of
all. Were such possibilities discussed with the Santa Ana potters, as
they have been with potters at other pueblos? Authors have a right to
choose their approach, to make their contributions in their own ways as
these have done; but readers have a corresponding right to know how far
the choice has been carried.
Unfortunately, because these
books appear to (and in truth, may) cavalierly dismiss Native knowledge
and understanding, they are likely to continue to find mixed reception
by scholars. One can hope for a future edition to rectify the problems.
Meanwhile, I, for one, have no doubt that potters at Zia and Santa Ana
will put the books to good use, and focus squarely on the indisputable
contributions of each study: making images of the potters’ ancestral
heritage available, and documenting the lives and works of the potters’
20th-century relatives and predecessors.
Bahti, Mark T.
2005 Review of The Pottery of Santa Ana Pueblo, by Francis H. Harlow, Duane Anderson, and Dwight P. Lanmon. Journal of Anthropological Research 61(4):542–543.
Pueblo Potters, Museum Curators, and Santa Fe’s Indian Market.
Theme issue, “Southwestern Native Fairs and Markets,” Expedition: The
Magazine of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and
Mera, H. P.
Pueblo Designs: 176 Illustrations of the “Rain Bird.” New York:
Dover. (First published as The Rain Bird: A Study in Pueblo Design.
Santa Fe: Laboratory of Anthropology 1938.)
Duffy holds a Ph.D. in folklore from Indiana University. A former
museum curator, she conducts research with potters at Acoma Pueblo,
where she investigates family dimensions of the art and the nature of
tradition. She is the editor of Midwestern Folklore
and the past president of the Hoosier Folklore Society. In addition to
her work on Pueblo potters, she has written on limestone carving
traditions in Indiana and has organized museum exhibitions on folk art,
including the traveling exhibition Turkish Traditional Art Today, which
she co-curated with Henry Glassie.