I spent most of today at Zia Pueblo on a trip with Friends of Archaeology (a support committee for the Museum of New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies). Zia is located about 60 miles southwest of Santa Fe, with the main village on a mesa high above the Jemez River. It is a "humble" pueblo (according to the governor, Ivan Pino, who personally welcomed our group with a moving speech). Unlike many other pueblos in this area, it does not have a casino/resort on its lands. The pueblo earns income from a pipeline which runs through pueblo lands, a gypsum mine, and through making its lands available for movie filming.
The pueblo originated the Zia sun symbol which is now used as a symbol for the state of New Mexico, and will appear on the New Mexico quarter, which is being released on April 7.
The symbol has two parts--the circle and the rays. The circle represents the sun and also the circle of life. The rays which project in the four directions, and each have four lines, represent the four directions (N, E, S, and W), the four stages of life, the four seasons, the four periods of the day, etc. Four is a sacred number for the Zia people--for example, Governor Pino told us they dance for four days at Easter.
We had a unique chance to have a guided tour with Ulysses Reid, the Cultural Preservation Coordinator for the pueblo. He took us to a site of a former pueblo which has completely melted, leaving mounds and scattered rocks where 3,500 people once lived in multi-story dwellings. The amazing thing to me was that you could walk around this area and see bits of pottery all over the ground which date from about 600 years ago. (I guess that's what happens when tourists don't scavenge the life out of a space.)
We also toured the lovely church, built in 1612, which honors Our Lady of the Assumption, and had a chance to meet a number of pueblo artists who make the beautiful Zia pottery. This pottery is red clay with a white slip, and often decorated with a bird motif--a straight-beaked, bent-legged bird. The photograph above is of the charming little pot I bought from artist E. Shije. We saw where the artists dig their clay, just outside the village, and where they gather the ash for the slip. The artist also told me that she paints the designs with brushes made out of the yucca plant.
Then we returned to the Senior Center at the pueblo where the youth group served us a wonderful lunch. (Half of our registration fee for the event went to the pueblo as a donation to their youth group's activities--the kids are saving for a trip to a youth conference this summer.)
For a different kind of Zia art, refer to my post of January 2. The illustrations therein were all done by Velino Shije Herrera (also known as Ma-Pe-Wi, or "Oriole Egg") of the Zia Pueblo.