A colorful past: assessing motivations for the acquisition of turquoise in the ancient U.S. Southwest

Author(s): Saul Hedquist; Lewis Borck; Alyson Thibodeau

Year: 2017


Turquoise is an icon of the U.S. Southwest, long drawing value as a metaphor for moisture in the arid region. As color and material, turquoise is fundamental to the worldviews of many indigenous groups. For the Hopi and Zuni people, the importance and use of turquoise dates back countless generations, to "time immemorial." Continuities in use (e.g., ornamental style and placement in offerings) suggest deep epistemological and ideological affinities; contemporary values are clearly visible in the archaeological record. Our work examines the social uses of turquoise and other blue-green minerals in the late prehispanic Western Pueblo region of the U.S. Southwest. Informed by interviews with Hopi and Zuni consultants, we discuss how contemporary Pueblo uses of turquoise compare to (and oftentimes clarify) archaeological patterns. We assess the geologic provenance of archaeological specimens using measurements of lead and strontium isotopes. With these data, and inspired by social network analysis, we explore the social implications of turquoise exchange in the region by comparing inferred procurement patterns to those of other sourceable materials (e.g., ceramics and obsidian). We hope to provide a more comprehensive and humanistic interpretation of the factors that motivated the circulation and use of turquoise in the ancient Southwest.

Cite this Record

A colorful past: assessing motivations for the acquisition of turquoise in the ancient U.S. Southwest. Saul Hedquist, Lewis Borck, Alyson Thibodeau. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 431417)


Spatial Coverage

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

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14980