Closer Look:

Tonto Polychrome Jar

Tonto Polychrome 1350-1600 (25249/11 ) Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Department of Cultural Affairs. Photography by David McNeece

Peaceful Pots

Since it was first discovered in Arizona in the 1930s, the pottery that has come to be called “Salado” has sparked spirited disagreements over the ceramics’ supposed purpose and origins. This “Salado problem” has persisted chiefly because the makers of Salado pots left no written records, and pottery finds have been spread among all three major cultural areas of the ancient Southwest. A lack of any convincing interpretation of the pots’ complicated designs has only added to the mystery. Now an MU assistant professor of anthropology, Todd VanPool, offers evidence of an intriguing explanation: The pots’ iconography indicates they were likely the work of a religious movement led by women, he says, one intent on undermining the authority of the area’s warlike elites. As the new religion spread, so did Salado pottery.

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University of Missouri

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