Hopi earthenware cup, with a small crack.
Surrounded by the Navajo Nation in Arizona, the Hopi reservation is home to two clans, Hopi and Tewa. Though it is actually a conglomerate of tribes from the Southwest, it has become one tribe of various clans brought together, mainly due to the conquistadores and U.S. government.The pottery today is the culmination of various clans all contributing designs and/or methods from their ancestors. Traditional Hopi pottery is generally divided into three phases:
Phase I through III 800 – 1300 A.D.
This was a purely functional phase that was brought about by a shift from a migratory people to a cultivation society. Anasazi pottery is characterized by rough vessels with rudimentary designs (perhaps to indicate family/use?). Though there was monochrome (black on white, yellow, or orange slip) decoration occurring, it was not until the 1400’s that polychrome became prevalent.
The Sikyatki period, with its polychrome decoration on white slip, was the height of the art. Interrupted by the Pueblo revolts and inquisitions of the 1600’s, it would be two hundred years before the beautiful designs and colors of this period would be seen again.
The Revival 1870 – Now
In the late 1800’s, when there was a great interest in studying ‘indigenous’ ways, Alexander Stephen recorded some of the earliest information about Hopi pottery. However is was Jesse Walter Fewkes that unearthed beautiful Sikyatki polychrome pots and shards that started the ‘revival.’ It is said that the beautiful ‘ancient’ pottery inspired Nampeyo to bring back the style that is so popular today. Nampeyo and other Hopi artists of that period would look to inspiration in pottery shards and pots and create magnificent vessels painted by hand. Of course, these tourist pieces are worth thousands today.
First Mesa is still considered the epicenter of Hopi pottery.
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