Native American, Southwestern US, Mimbres Valley, New Mexico, ca. 950 to 1150 CE. A large, deep bowl of classic form and decoration from an imaginative and unique ceramic culture. The bowl has step walls, an unpainted exterior, and a dramatic series of abstract geometric motifs on its interior. Painted in tondo is a single large fish, a stylized depiction with a tiny triangular tail and large, rounded body. Its surface is decorated with crossed lines and diamonds. Part of the fish is obscured by a "kill" hole, which researchers believe means that the bowl was ritually punctured at its nadir prior to interment with a human burial. The fish is surrounded by a series of mountain-like triangles with stepped, rectangular, and linear motifs whose forms may have been inspired by the dramatic geology of the Mimbres homeland. Size: 12.35" W x 5.4" H (31.4 cm x 13.7 cm)
Fascinatingly, a variety of fish as well as fishing scenes are depicted on Classic Mimbres pottery. A 1986 study by Jett and Moyle (see below) identified 20 fish taxa on Mimbres bowls, 18 of which are marine, from the Gulf of California. Does this mean that Mimbres traders traveled nearly 1000 miles across the desert to gain access to the rich resources of the coast? It must have been an arduous and remarkable journey, and yet the Mimbrenos seem to have undertaken it with some regularity - not only do they have many depictions of fish on their pottery, but thousands of marine shells have also been found in Mimbres archaeological sites. Given that they wore shell jewelry and left shells as offerings, we surmise that they were fascinated by the ocean. On this vessel, the fish is probably a marker of a particular clan, lineage, or other social group.
c. f. Jett and Moyle, 1986, "The Exotic Origins of Fishes Depicted on Prehistoric Mimbres Pottery from New Mexico", American Antiquity, vol. 51, issue 4, pgs. 688-720.
Provenance: private estate collection of Francis Rudolf Turner, Bloomington, Indiana, USA
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