Sunday, November 30, 2014

Pueblo Corn

Weather: A little snow on Monday, but warm afternoons melted it in most places.

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae, piñon, and other evergreens, yuccas; leaves on bearded iris, honeysuckle, vinca, sweet pea, violet, golden-spur columbine, beards tongues, winecup mallow, alfilerillo, purple aster; needle, June, pampas, and other grasses.

What’s gray: Winterfat, snow-in-summer; four-wing salt bushes are gray-green; buddleia, pinks and catmint leaves are blue gray.

What’s reddened: Cholla, twigs on peach and apricot.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe willow; leaves on fernbush and bouncing Bess yellowing.

What’s blooming indoors: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Small birds.

Weekly update: The pueblos grow a number of types of corn. The Hopi had terms for twenty-two in 1935. The diversity was probably more a defense against an erratic climate than a deliberate attempt to appease the cloud spirts with the six sacred colors.

While each family treated its seed as an heirloom to be guarded, some were open to new varieties. Memories of the drought of 1864 lingered. Then famine forced many to flee to other pueblos. When rains returned, so did the Hopi, with borrowed seed corn. They were still using a white variety that brought back from the Río Grande area when Alfred Whiting visited them.

He said they grew one variety "obtained from the Havasupai at the San Diego exposition in 1915." As mentioned in the post two weeks ago, the Hopi had long traded with the Arizona tribe.

In the depression years, softer corns were replacing the harder ones like flint, because they were easier to grind. The harder ones had been preferred when corn weevils threatened the grain supply. Changes in storage technology made women’s lives easier.

White corns were the Hopi dietary mainstay, but blues were nearly as important, especially for piki. A soft blue type, sakwa’pu, was associated with the southwest.

Their yellow corn was a short season variety that had a strong flavor. Whiting said, it tended to be used for mush, and was associated with the northwest.

Much of sweet corn crop was baked in the fall and eaten. The remainder was strung to dry in the sun. It represented the nadir.

A purple corn, koko’ma, wasn’t eaten. Instead, it was used to dye baskets and fibers, and was associated with the zenith.

Hopi tried to keep their strains pure by not planting obviously mixed kernels. The only seed they considered disposable was on the mixed ears they ate before they matured. They also distributed it during the spring ceremonies as Kachina corn, katci'nqa'’3. [3 represents a vowel sound like that found in her, girl and turn.]

Whiting says red corn wasn’t grown as a species, but appeared in fields of white corn. It was associated with the southwest.

Other pueblos shared the same desire to have six colors of corn, but differed in their attitudes toward obtaining seed from other pueblos. Those closest to the powers of Santa Fé before the Pueblo Revolt of 1688 were conservative. Tesuque punished those who imported seed. The Tewa speakers at Hano, who had left Galisteo, suspected the intent of those who would offer them seed. The older men at San Ildefonso knew they could get seed from other pueblos, but refused. Barbara Freire-Marreco was told, "they want to keep the very corn of the pueblo, because the corn is the same as the people."

Santa Clara considered itself more liberal in 1912. Freire-Marreco said it needed six colors for ceremonies, but mainly grew blue and white. Its black had a "dusty, gray-back surface." It did not grow yellow, but obtained it from Tesuque. One man had gotten a dark red seed mottled with black from Jémez in 1908. Another got his red corn from Taos and was considering trying a Taos white. He reasoned corn that grew in a colder area would ripen sooner in the valley.

It should be noted, modern transportation and communication were having an influence. Improved roads made it easier to visit other pueblos.  The availability of wheat in stores made it easier to be fussy about sources of corn. Families no longer were forced to choose between cultural values and starvation.

Freire-Marreco, Barbara, William Wilfred Robbins, and John Peabody Harrington. Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916; includes the other pueblos mentioned.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939.

Photographs: Seeds from Native Seeds Search of Tucson and Seed Savers Exchange of Decorah, Iowa

1. Seneca Red Stalker, Seed Savers; it’s the stalks and husks that are red
2. San Felipe Blue, Native Seeds
3. Nambé White, Native Seeds
4. Navajo Yellow, Native Seeds, Gamerco, New Mexico
5. Navajo Copper, Native Seeds, New Mexico
6. Aztec Black, Seed Savers, introduced by James J. H. Gregory in 1864

7. San Domingo Posole, Native Seeds

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Growing Corn

Weather: Snow last Sunday was so fine, it didn’t accumulate in masses. Still it lingered in the shadows for several days, protected by afternoon temperatures that didn’t reach 32 degrees, then by high clouds.

Mornings are now so cloudless the effects of the sun are not mitigated and dawn temperatures average 20 degrees. Cold probably is killing any tender perennials like snapdragons that might have wintered over.

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae, piñon, other evergreens, yuccas; leaves on bearded iris, vinca, sweet pea, violet, golden-spur columbine, beards tongues, hollyhock, winecup mallow, alfilerillo, purple aster; needle, June and other grasses.

What’s gray: Four-wing salt bushes, winterfat, snow-in-summer; buddleia and catmint leaves blue gray.

What’s reddened: Cholla, young twigs on peach and apricot; new buds visible on peach.

What’s yellowed: Young stems on globe willow; leaves on fernbush and bouncing Bess yellowing.

What’s blooming indoors: Sun comes in low this time of year for blooming zonal geraniums on inside porch that faces southeast.

Animal sightings: Hopefully cold temperatures are killing off the insects and vermin that survived last winter. There were so many grasshoppers and aphids this past summer from the previous warm winter, it would be a disaster next summer if everything survived.

Weekly update: Our image of Native American farming methods was set by people living in New England. Every year around Thanksgiving the same information is reiterated for a new generation. Darrett Rutman recapitulates:

"They set grains of seed corn into the center of each circle...Here and there along the coast the women fertilized the corn by setting a small herringlike fish, the alewife, with the seed...As the first corn shoots broke the surface a few weeks after planting, the women descended on the fields again, carefully planting three of four bean seeds around the young corn. Corn and beans grew together, the beans climbing on the cornstalks. Sometimes squash and pumpkin seeds were planted in the hills, their vines trailing across the uncultivated land between."

Today, Native Seed, a seed collective in Tucson, tells local bean growers to "plant with corn & squash."

When people actually looked at farmers in the Southwest in the late nineteenth century, that’s not what they were doing. For one thing, among the Hopi, cultivation is divided by gender. For another, First Mesa is at 5700' with annual precipitation averaging 8" to 12" a year. Plymouth Plantation lies on the Atlantic Ocean. It’s at 34' with more than 52" of precipitation a year. It’s ten degrees hotter in the summer in Arizona than in Massachusetts.

The Hopi are matrilocal, which means the women controlled the homes and the springs that irrigated small gardens. Men had jurisdiction over clan kivas and agricultural fields away from the village. Men planted part of the corn crop in the main washes below the mesas that would get flood water during summer monsoons. They grew the other under cliffs where water seeped down. Two locations with two water sources provided security against erratic weather.

Alfred Whiting says men at Oraibi leaned the modern irrigation techniques they used at Moenkopi from the Mormons of Tuba City. They founded the village in a wash as a summer camp in 1870 about 40 miles from Third Mesa. The Mormons arrived in 1875.

Beans might have been grown in lines between the corn rows, but Whiting said, more often men planted them on mesa tops in 1935. They also planted peach orchards in the dunes under the cliffs.

Women had small gardens they watered by hand from their springs. They grew squash, gourds, musk melons and introduced plants like chili, onions, and tomatoes. The dye plants, sunflowers and red amaranth, usually grew in the women’s plots, but sometimes could be found in a corner of a bean field. Other useful wild plants like Rocky Mountain bee weed, devil’s claw and wild potato were left where they volunteered in corn fields.

The method for planting corn was the same in both the Northeast and Southwest. Instead of the long, continuous rows of Midwestern farmers, small circles were cleared about six feet a part.

Walter Hough indicated the Hopi used a planting stick with a wedge point to dig holes where they dropped seed: 6 to 12 kernels in a good field, more in a bad. Whiting added, the foot-deep holes were filled during the season as the plants grew.

No mention has been made of fertilizer in the Southwest. In February they cleared brush and releveled fields.. In April, Alexander Stephen noted they planted rabbit bush. Ericameria nauseosus grows about 6' tall. The shrub blocked winds that uncovered seeds that were planted more shallowly than corn. Elsie Clews Parsons said the men of Oraibi used greasewood fences around their watermelon patches.

The other trait shared between the Northeast and Southwest is the chronological history of crops. Squash was domesticated first, then corn was introduced. Beans came later. In the Northeast, the three merged. Roger Williams recorded the Narragansett of Rhode Island believed in "Kautantowwit. The great south-west god, to whose house all souls go, and from whom came their corn and beans."

In the Southwest, where the climate was different, the crops were kept separate. Corn and beans each had its own set of ceremonies within the annual ritual agricultural cycle.

Hough, Walter. "The Hopi Indian Collection in the United States National Museum," U. S. National Museum Proceedings 54:235-296:1918.

Native Seed/SEARCH. "Planting and Harvesting in the Low Desert," double-sided, single-page guide included with orders.

Parsons, Elsie Clews. Hopi and Zuñi Ceremonialism, 1933.

Rutman, Darrett B. Husbandmen of Plymouth, 1967.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi, 1939.

Williams, Roger. In James D. Knowles, Memoirs of Roger Williams, The Founder Of The State Of Rhode-Island, 1834.

Photographs: Different ways sweet corn is grown in the immediate area. For more on nostalgic corn planting, see post for 23 November 2008.

1. Corn possibly grown for farmer’s market; field is planted every few years, with ditch at the back; 9 July 2010.

2. Corn possibly grown for market; field was planted in cantaloups a few years before; ditch is at the back and has lateral on one side; 12 July 2012.

3. Corn grown in a few rows at the back of the house land, 17 August 2012; variations in height reflect differences in flow of water from ditch in back.

4. Corn grown in a few rows at the side of the house land, 13 September 2013.

5. Corn grown along side the house land, ditch in front, 22 October 2014.

6. Corn grown in widely spaced rows in field separated from house land, ditch in front; 12 July 2012.

7. Corn growing in raised bed at end of trailer; earlier annual four o’clocks were blooming at the base; I’m not sure if this was planted this year, or reseeded last summer; 15 October 2014.

8. Corn grown in opening in a wood lot, 22 November 2011; I think it’s planted every few years and comes back on its own in the intervening seasons.

9. In comparison, field corn grown as commercial crop in Michigan, summer of 1982. With modern seeds and picking machines, corn was planted more densely than it was when I was a child.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Recent Hopi Pigements II

Weather: Very cold Thursday morning, then rain yesterday in the night and early this morning; later the temperature dropped and snow fell.

What’s blooming: Tansy, purple asters; globe willows turning yellow; next year’s buds visible on peach.

Animal sightings: Mice trying to get into house; chickadees.

Weekly update: Alexander Stephen was told the yellow ochre the Hopi used for prayer sticks and their bodies in the 1890s came from the base of a pool under a spring in Grand Canyon near the salt deposits. A trip to the salt lands was part of male initiation activities. The initiated also made other trips west when necessary.

Men sometimes mixed the yellow pigment with water that had boiled squash.

Women used rabbit bush flowers for yellow for their baskets. Stephen saw Ericameria nauseosa used by men associated with one kiva. They boiled the flowers with fibrous alunogen or sandy gypsum. Both minerals were found on mesa cliffs in the region; the first is found near coal deposits.

Black could come from several sources, but Stephen observed, coal, charcoal, soot and corn smut were not interchangeable. They were "used separately for different occasions." To get black for weaving, men mixed seeds from sunflower plants they cultivated with roasted piñon gum and boiled sumac twigs.

For baskets, Whiting says women used Helianthus petiolaris seeds and purple corn for deep purples, and darkened them with piñon gum. Stephen saw men use purple corn with the greasy, salty clay used to cook potatoes. They strained the dyed water through sumac berries. Black and purple could both be used to represent Above.

Red was the most variable, as it had been in the earlier murals at Awátovi. As mentioned in the post for 28 June 2009 on Maltese Cross, red fades without the right alloy or mordant. It took centuries for European glass makers to produce a decent red.

Whiting said there was no satisfactory, natural source for basketry. At best, a pink could be produced from a winged pigweed, Cycloloma atriplicifolium. Men sometimes used white corn meal with an aniline dye on the body of a Kachina dancer.

Hematite still was used, usually mixed with white corn meal or bean meal. Stephen reported some came from Shushtuban Tukwi, a mountain some 15 to 20 miles southwest of Walpi. They also took some pigment from the ruins of Kautaktipu in the foothills of the western valley. He observed there was "a great deal of iron ochre and selenite" gypsum mixed in the shale near the coal deposits.

Stephen was told red was the color of warriors. Its ritual import no doubt dated back before the drought of the late 1200s, when ceramics were black, white and red. In addition to the usual red ochres, the Hopi had two special reds.

One was a glistening, red, sky stone applied to prayer sticks at the winter solstice in 1892. Stephen thought the shiny hematite might have had a meteoric origin, but was told it came from a mining town north of San Carlos, which, by road today, lies 244 miles away in Apache territory to the south. The Captain Jack claim contains specularite and magnetite in limestone with evidence of past mining activity.

The other was vermillion, which both women and young men used to adorn themselves. It had attracted the interest of the Spanish, who thought it was cinnabar. The mercuric sulphide was critical to processing silver ore. They asked so many questions, Stephen was told the pigment came to be called Spanish red, Kas’til shü’ta. Natives no longer gave details about it.

When Americans penetrated the west after the discovery of silver in Colorado, in 1864, they too searched for mercury. Jacob Vernon Hamblin was a Mormon who settled in Kanab, Utah, in 1869. From there, he and his son, Lyman, explored the Colorado River and proselytized the Navajo.

Lyman was given a sample of the red pigment by the Pai Utes, who had received it from the Shivwits Utes who lived north of the Canyon. He told an aide to John Wesley Powell, who was exploring the area in the 1870s. It looked so much like cinnabar, Frederick Dellenbaugh tracked the source to a cave in Grand Canyon "in a side gulch about three thousand feet down the side of the Canyon, and two thousand feet above the river."

The Hopi reservation was created in 1882, that of the Havasupai in Grand Canyon in 1880. The new boundaries and the privatization of land between, no doubt, altered the ways the Hopi could travel outside their prescribed area. That change, in turn, probably was altering relationships between the two groups in the 1890s.

At the time Stephen was in Arizona, the Hopi were trading with the Havasupai. They traveled west to Cataract in the fall for buckskins. Stephen Hirst says, the Havasupai came east in February to exchange "baskets, buckskins, red paint, mescal, corn, salt, and shells" for "jewelry, blankets, pottery and horses." Their red was believed to have magical properties and was traded far to the east.

The vermillion-colored pigment probably came from a cave in Diamond Creek Canyon. George Billingsley noted, when that red claystone was mixed with deer tallow, it had protective properties against sunburn. An assay ordered by Dellenbaugh showed it was an "iron ochre," but the "greasiest, most penetrating stuff I ever saw."

White was taken for granted. Kaolin or white clay mixed with sand or gypsum was used on men’s bodies and as an undercoating on wood, as it has been centuries before on polychrome pottery. It wasn’t mentioned for weaving or basketry. Even if bleaching were possible, light colors weren’t practical.

The Hopi use of color does recognize the difference between the sacred and the profane, as it recognizes the differences between ceremonial blue and the colors found in nature.

Billingsley, George H. "Mining Activity in the Grand Canyon Area, Arizona," in D. P. Elston, G. H. Billingsley, and R. A. Young, Geology of Grand Canyon, Northern Arizona (With Colorado River Guides): Lee Ferry to Pierce Ferry, Arizona, 1989.

Dellenbaugh, Frederick Samuel. "Indian Red Paint," Masterkey 7:85-87:May 1933; quoted with additional comments in Watson Smith, Kiva Mural Decorations at Awatovi and Kawaika-a, 1952.

Hirst, Stephen. I Am the Grand Canyon: The Story of the Havasupai People, 2006.

Peterson, Jocelyn A. and Mark H. Hibpshman. Status of Mineral Resource Information for the San Carlos Indian Reservation, Arizona, 1981.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi (1939).

Photographs: Local uses of pigments on Española shop signs painted directly on stucco; buildings with other surfaces have applied signs.

1. Boomerang thrift shop, Riverside Drive, Anna Dillane, owner; wisteria vine climbs the corner of the building and spreads along the roof; sign with store name is attached to the wall.

2. Same as #1; at the base of the wall, flamingos wander in the grass.

3. Hollywood Theater, Riverside Drive; mural dramatizing the business covers the front and entrance side of a converted house.

4. Los Compadres car wash, Chama-Los Alamos Highway. Paintings of a car being washed were on the west (street) and north sides; the name was painted on the south. After the business closed this summer, the walls were painted white.

5. Jessica’s Fashions, Riverside Drive, Andres Gallegos, contact. Someone added details to this sign and painted another on the front; the store was open a week ago Friday. Everything had been painted over last Sunday morning when I went to take a more recent picture.

6. Another Man’s Treasure thrift shop, Cook’s Bridge Road, Amanda Sena, owner. If a building is not actively being used, the paintings of a closed business may remain. This had been a day care center. When the current thrift shop opened, the owner painted her sign over the previous name and left the rest of the day care pictures. Most are from Winnie the Pooh; one is of Goofy.

7. The Water Store, Riverside Drive, Dyna Padilla, owner; small sign signifying the nature of the products sold.

8. Baila Conmigo dance studio, Chama-Los Alamos Highway, Juana Maria Duarte Ontiveros, instructor; detail with name exploits hopes.

9. Saints and Sinners bar and package liquor store, Riverside Drive, Dennis Salazar, owner; detail with name amplifies customer’s self image.

10. The Original Chimayo Trading Post, Riverside Drive, Leo Trujillo, owner; detail with name is Native sun symbol.

11. Pegasus Auto Sales, Riverside Drive. The simplest painted sign is a name with no adornments.

12. Lovin’ Oven doughnut shop, Riverside Drive, Alexandra Stone, contact. Where I grew up in Michigan in the 1950s, merchants did not paint the bricks of their stores. Instead they painted their windows using water-based paints. This one shows a pueblo bake-oven and a pueblo-style house frosted with snow.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Recent Hopi Pigments I

Weather: Rain last Sunday, followed by frost on the car windows in the mornings.

What’s blooming: Tansy, purple asters; Siberian elm and beauty bush leaves turning yellow.

Animal sightings: Grasshoppers, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: Hopi ceramic craftsmanship declined after the Spanish introduced iron pots and, later, cheap china. They stopped burning the coal that had produced the hard pottery, and returned to wood. Some speculate the introduction of steel axes facilitated that change.

Alexander Stephen, a Scots trained in metallurgy at Edinburgh, was living near Walpi on First Mesa in the 1880s. Jesse Walter Fewkes, who led the southwestern archeological expedition sponsored by Mary Tileson Hemenway from 1889 to 1894, apparently suggested he keep notes. Stephen’s interest naturally included the use of minerals.

While he was in Arizona, archaeologists were reconstructing fourteenth-century pottery. Collectors, and later tourists, wanted pieces. This stimulated Hopi craftsmen to recreate the older designs, and in some cases, to replicate older processes. Stephen mentioned visiting the "old pottery fire pits" in 1893 with a potter and her husband. They asked him to identify useful lodes of coal.

The previous year he had watched pottery fired with sheep dung and corn cobs. They added bones of sheep, cattle or deer, which turned white when burned, to add "this quality of whiteness to the pottery" that high heat once had provided. "Bones of horse or burro are not used. These would darken the pottery."

He noted the paste was covered with a clay slip and decorated with red, brown, and yellow ochres. The brown turned maroon, the yellow a pale red when fired two to four hours.

He noted elsewhere, black came from black iron ore or tansy mustard. Barbara Freire-Marreco saw women at Hano, the Tewa-speaking pueblo on First Mesa, steam bundles of Descurainia pinnata in a pit oven in 1912, then press and dry the liquid for later use. She said, women used it as a trade good among themselves. Walter Hough said it was turned into an oily mixture that served as a binder with an iron pigment for pottery.

The primary uses for paint by men were for their bodies, prayer sticks, kachina masks, and other ceremonial objects. Most of the pigments were the same as those used in the kiva murals in the fifteenth century, but their sources may have changed.

With improved, though still rudimentary roads, they could obtain more from Grand Canyon. Their legends identified the plateau fissure as the place from whence they emerged onto the surface of the planet.

Ralph Cameron and Pete Berry claimed copper deposits along Horseshoe Canyon that were mined between 1890 and 1907. They exploited existing trails of the Havasupai, also known as the Ko’honino or Coconino, who lived on Cataract Creek. The company’s detritus may not have been commercial grade, but it still was rich in copper compounds.

Both blue and green were used by the Hopi. Stephen found men clearly recognized differences in hues, but their language combined them, leading to confusion. It may be because they still used forms of copper, which could vary from sample to sample. Azurite is unstable when exposed to air; water replaces some of its carbon dioxide, turning it into malachite. If the water or saliva used in Hopi pigments contained salt, it would have had the same effect on azurite.

In 1893, Stephen was told they gathered the blue and green malachite used on prayer sticks from the Ko’honino plateau.

They made a light blue for masks from copper carbonate, boiled piñon gum, and squash seeds. They did not use boiled binders for prayer sticks, only clear spring water or white bean meal and saliva. Both men and women used an easily ground, blue-green, copper-stained sandstone, mixed with water, on their bodies. He noted some were experimenting with adding a little aniline blue or green dye.

For weaving, which was the responsibility of men, they mixed indigo with warm, aged urine. For baskets, women used blue beans or Mexican indigo, according to Alfred Whiting.

Indigofera suffruticosa is native to the Mexican lowlands of Guerrero, and was being used as a colorant before Columbus. The Spanish developed an export industry in the 1500s, and it still was a major agricultural product in Chiapas, Colima, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Oaxaca in the 1890s.

Notes: Some information from Wikipedia.

Freire-Marreco, Barbara, William Wilfred Robbins, and John Peabody Harrington. Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians, 1916.

Hough, Walter. "The Hopi in Relation to the Plant Environment," The American Anthropologist 10:33-44:1897.

Stephen, Alexander. Notebooks, 1882-1894, edited as Hopi Journal, 1936, by Elsie Clews Parsons.

Whiting, Alfred F. Ethnobotany of the Hopi (1939).

Photographs: The Hopi collected their pigments from great distances. Grand Canyon is at least 150 miles away. If one wanted to make pigments where I live, one would have to do the same. Sedimentary rocks were more likely to yield pigments, conglomerates the crystals and other gem stones used in rituals.

1. La Bajada Hill southwest of Santa Fé, 35 miles from my house; Chinle Formation red-brown sedimentary mudstone.

2. Red granite in driveway gravel taken from quarry west of Río Grande, maybe 8 miles away; stones originally came from Picuris area, 40 miles to the northeast. Granite often includes pink feldspar, white quartz, and black mica.

3. Rio Puerco west of Albuquerque, 136 miles away; redeposited grains of yellow sandstone from Navajo Draw Member, Arroyo Ojito Formation.

4. Yellow-stained stone, driveway gravel.

5. Los Barrancos west of Rte 285 and south of Española, 5 miles way; one of the white ash beds.

6. White quartz and a red/white/black piece of granite, driveway gravel.

7. Rio Oso northwest of Española, 14 miles away; first rains after Las Conchas Fire sent black water that covered the river bottom; photograph taken 28 August 2011.

8. No pure black or blue stones in driveway gravel, but many shades and types of gray; also see background stones in other drive pictures.

9. Deformed fault east of Dixon, less than 35 miles away; black shale hardened into slate.

10. White, yellow, and pink quartz, driveway gravel.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hopi Pigments

Weather: Below 30 on Wednesday; catalpa leaves turned brown, cottonwoods leaves started dropping; last rain 10/20.

What’s blooming in the area: Chrysanthemums.

Beyond the walls and fences: Áñil del muerto, purple asters.

In my yard: Winecup mallow, black-eyed Susan, chocolate flower, blanket flower.

Animal sightings: Cabbage butterflies, hornets, large and small black ants.

Weekly update: Hopi experiments with burning rocks and attempts to change the color of yellow clay to something lighter may have led to a better understanding of mineral-based pigments. The pottery continued to have a black decoration made from iron manganese, but colors began to be used in wall murals in the Awátovi kiva on Antelope Mesa sometime before the late 1300s.

When Watson Smith helped excavate the kiva in the early 1950s, he sent samples of the mural paints and paint pots found in the area to chemists. Unfortunately, he didn’t publish the same details about locations as he did for the murals themselves, so it’s difficult to know when which pigments were introduced.

The colors included many shades of yellow, red, blue, black and white, the primary colors of the Hopi palette. Other colors were used, but in small quantities. The few green samples came from malachite, a copper carbonate.

The black and white probably represented transfers of ceramic knowledge. Much of the white was derived from "the white sandy clay that occurs in the Cretaceous beds underlying Antelope Mesa." The blacks varied, but all involved some kind of carbon. A few had obvious remains of charcoal.

Yellow came from limonite or goethite, red from hematite. All are iron ores better known as ochres. They are responsible for the colors in clay. Their usefulness as pigments has been discovered by people living on all parts of the globe since paleolithic times.

The three Hopi mesas settled today sit on Mesaverde sandstone. Antelope Mesa to the southeast lies on exposed Mancos shale that has "thin beds of bentonic clay," meaning clay formed from weathering volcanic ash. It probably derived from eruptions on Hopi Buttes farther to the southeast.

When John Hack excavated the ash heaps on Antelope Mesa where pottery had been fired, he found the upper seam of coal left red ash and the lower one left white ash. The red came from the shale, which in turn got its color from hematite. Brown shale gets it colors from goethite and limonite. Shale, itself, is a sedimentary, compacted mud.

It’s possible artists weren’t satisfied with hematite. Smith noted more sources for red than other colors, including some vermillion. He also noted a number of examples of pinks, oranges, maroons and browns that might have been intended to be reds. The pinks appeared to be reds painted over white bases that might have faded. The others were forms of iron oxide, some burned, some containing carbon particles. Some of the browns and purples contained manganese. Compounds of the last often are pink. All indicate experimentation.

Blue is the innovation. The polychrome ceramics that preceded Jeddito ware used black, white and red pigments. While weather oxidizes the darker Mancos shale to a blue hue, few stones or plants are pure blues.

Sapphires, aquamarines, and lapis lazuli may be found in small quantities in this country, but they are mined in the parts of Asia near the collision of tectonic plates that lifted the Himalayas and Hindu Kush. Cobalt, which releases arsenic gases when it’s smelted, is mined today in the Congo, China and Cuba.

Copper compounds often are blue or green. A few pigments found in the Awátovi kiva were made from copper carbonate or azurite, another form of copper carbonate. Turquoise is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum, but would have been considered too valuable to grind.

Smith did find some blue pigments were made from crushed pebbles. Most were mixes of white clay and charcoal. When he compared the kiva paints with those used in the Franciscan church erected over the kiva in 1629, he found only copper carbonate used for blue or green. Mixtures no longer were used.

The mixtures witness a desire that prompted a search for a new pigment and may hint that the need for blue was recent in the 1400s. They even may suggest when the modern Hopi palette began coalescing.

Hack, John T. Prehistoric Coal Mining in the Jeddito Valley, Arizona, 1942.

López, Alejandro. "A Tribute in Paint to the Earth and Local Agriculture," Green Fire Times, October 2014. Robert Montoya and Marlo Martinez also provided information on murals.

O’Sullivan, R. B., C. A. Repenning, E. C. Beaumont, and H. G. Page. Stratigraphy of the Cretaceous Rocks and the Tertiary Ojo Alamo Sandstone, Navajo and Hopi Indian Reservations, Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, 1972.

Smith, Watson. Kiva Mural Decorations at Awatovi and Kawaika-a, 1952; has quotation about source of white.

Photographs: Murals on local Española buildings. The ones on the city-owned Hunter Ford buildings across from Cook’s Hardware, Paseo de Oñate, are sponsored by Cultura Cura/Culture Cures Collaborative. The group was formed by Lily Yeh and the New Mexico Community Foundation’s Collaborative Leadership Program. Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area, Inc. matched the NMCF funding. All imagery was based on collage of photographs by Alejandro López. My pictures were taken 29 October 2014.

1. "Mother Corn," design by Rose B. Simpson of Santa Clara, with collaborative support from Warren Montoya of Santa Ana Pueblo; Santa Clara pueblo, with Black Mesa on left and Jémez on right. Floating corn in center was added by Mike Ipiotis of Albuquerque. Hunter Ford building.

2. Detail of #1, counterclockwise, corn is yellow, blue, white, and red mixed; woman in center has peppers with squash nearby; corn field is being continued to the right by Thomas Vigil of Española.

3. Detail of #1; sparkle in water is created with pieces of colored or mirrored glass; paints are acrylic; more than sixty community members have painted and applied recycled glass elements to the murals.

4. "Primavera" by Alejandro López, Roger Montoya of Velarde, and Arlene Jackson from Trinidad. Spring planting looking east towards Truches Peaks; water in the ditches; Hunter Ford building.

5. Detail of #4, man plowing with peach orchard in back; girls’ heads by Arlene Jackson.

6. Running the irrigation, early in season, peaches in back; by Alejandro López; Marlo Martinez commercial building across road and little south from Valley National Bank, Riverside Drive. López is from Santa Cruz, his family from Las Truches.

7. "El Sembrador" by Arlene Jackson, Alejandro López, and Robert Montoya; water running in the ditches. Young man at left with ear phones is Victor Villalpando, who was killed by local police in June, 2014. Hunter Ford building.

8. Detail of #7; corn is ripening in back with peppers in front; blue-flowered morning glory in corn; Victor is carrying yellow corn. Students at Robert Montoya’s La Tierra Montessori School in Alcalde and Moving Arts Española added the animals and some plants; students included Konstantin Aragonez, Sasha Backhas, Isaac López, Kylie Martinez, and Amelia Ortega.

9. "La Española" by Alejandro López; imagines the women who ran the restaurant used for the name of the local rail stop; Santa Cruz church in back, yellow and red apples above; Marlo Martinez building.