A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Modern Pueblo potters are known for creating spectacular geometric and animal designs based on the painted pottery of the ancient Mimbres people. Now a special exhibition at Harvard's Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Painted by a Distant Hand: Mimbres Pottery of the American Southwest, showcases examples from Harvard's collection of Mimbres vessels from the Swarts Ruin in New Mexico, which played an important role in spurring interest in this ancient art. Excavated in the 1920s, the ruin is one of only 17 known Mimbres villages that were occupied between A.D. 200 and 1150, after which the inhabitants abandoned their settlements. More than seven hundred painted bowls were found at the site.
The exhibition traces the development of designs on Mimbres pottery from simple red patterns to representations of animals, humans, and complex geometric forms. The show moves beyond chronology by exploring the relationship between the Mimbres' world and their art. One case pairs artifacts, such as clamshell bracelets, with bowls depicting similar objects. Another displays groups of pots linked by style and technique that could be the work of individual artists--likely women who specialized in this craft.
Kimberly A. Berry is a Ph.D. candidate at Boston University.
Click here for ARCHAEOLOGY's list of current exhibitions.