If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Paquimé jars

Effigy jar, c. 1200–1450, clay and paint, Paquimé, Chihuahua, Mexico, 23 x 18 cm; and jar with parrot design, c. 1150–1450, coiled and hand built, painted clay, attributed to Paquimé, Chihuahua, Mexico, 20 x 24 cm (National Museum of the American Indian, NYC). A conversation between Dr. Lauren Kilroy-Ewbank and Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Smarthistory.

Want to join the conversation?

  • purple pi purple style avatar for user louisaandgreta
    Since we know that there were large trade networks and macaws would not have been native to the the paquime, how do we know that they were the ones to make the jar with the parrot design? Could it not have been a gift or something exchanged in trade?
    How do we know that these pens were to breed the bird and that that same bird was sacred to them?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user

Video transcript

(soft piano music music) - [Dr. Lauren] So we're in the National Museum of the American Indian in New York, and we're looking at these two vessels from the site of Paquime in Chihuahua, Mexico. - [Dr. Steven] This is Northern Mexico and contiguous with the Four Corners Region with- - [Dr. Lauren] Something that people have been looking at more recently are the connections between peoples and what is today the Southwestern United States and what we also call Meso-America which is Mexico and parts of Central America. - [Dr. Steven] We can certainly see that in the vessel that's on the left, where we see a double-headed representation of a tropical bird that looks like a parrot or a macaw to me. - [Dr. Lauren] At the site of Paquime, which was previously referred to as Casa Grandes, they had pens where they were breeding macaws. - [Dr. Steven] Now, these are tropical birds that would've had to have been imported from the areas controlled by the Maya to the south. - [Dr. Lauren] Macaws would've been challenging to keep alive, let alone breed. These birds indicate that there would've been wealth and also elite culture here at the site of Paquime. - [Dr. Steven] We're able to identify the type of bird and yet, this is not a naturalistic rendering of the bird. It is flat and it's reddish brown, and surrounded by this beautiful and complex linear pattern. - [Dr. Lauren] You really have to turn around or walk around in the case of the museum, to get a sense of the movement across the surface that the artist was able to achieve. - [Dr. Steven] There's an even more complex vessel just to the right. Here, I see this rotund human figure with this marvelous wide face. - [Dr. Lauren] And these small eyes that are actually in relief and this little chin that also projects, it's really wonderful how the artist animated the face of this figure. - [Dr. Steven] Look at the mouth. It's this wonderful little rectangle with small teeth that are indicated. And it seems as if he's speaking. And then on the projection that is the chin, there are three black lines suggesting facial hair. - [Dr. Lauren] If we look at the body of the face, I mean, we see this fantastic spiral design as well as black contour lines, interesting geometric patterns that is making this such a dynamic surface that you want to turn around in your hands to look at it. - [Dr. Steven] The whole surface spins and connects the sides and the front and the back. And I'm interested by the plainer surface at the forehead. We think that's actually a strap that is helping this figure move something that weighs a significant amount on his back. - [Dr. Lauren] We think this is a merchant, someone who would've been traveling vast distances to acquire goods and also trade goods from this area of Northern Mexico. And we know that there's this massive flow of goods across incredibly long distances. - [Dr. Steven] We have a figure that is a representation of transit, of movement, that is rendered with this sense of dynamism and energy. - [Dr. Lauren] What I find remarkable about these two vessels from Paquime, is that they're helping us to overcome or rethink some of our modern day assumptions about peoples in contact with one another. That here we have this vessel of a merchant, is clearly speaking to these vast trade networks from Central America up through the Southwest. And so it's forcing us to think of these divisions that have been set in place in the modern world. (soft piano music)