Color Symbolism of U.S. Southwest Jewelry

Author(s): Jill Neitzel

Year: 2015


The colors of turquoise and shell jewelry in the prehistoric U.S. Southwest were imbued with a diversity of inter-related symbolic meanings. To begin to understand these embedded messages, we must consider the results of cultural anthropologists’ different approaches to color perception and archaeologists’ reliance on ethnographic analogy. Stephen Plog’s seminal publication on the color symbolism of Pueblo pottery describes the religious significance of blue/green, the color of turquoise, and white, the color of marine shell. This sacred content all related to water and fertility -- factors that were critical for survival in the prehistoric Southwest. For jewelry, these religious meanings reinforced the colors’ other inter-connected messages about status, long distance connections, heritage, and cultural affiliation. The symbolism was more powerful when it was broadcast redundantly by greater quantities of ornaments and intricate composite pieces.

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Cite this Record

Color Symbolism of U.S. Southwest Jewelry. Jill Neitzel. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 397373)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections


Color Jewelry

Geographic Keywords
North America - Southwest

Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;