The Multivalence of Black in Casas Grandes Iconography

Author(s): Christine VanPool; Todd VanPool

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Coloring the World: People and Colors in Southwestern Archaeology" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

Color symbolism was undoubtedly important to the Medio period (AD 1200–1450) Casas Grandes folks. Red, black, and white designs decorate their pottery, but excavations at Paquimé reveal that the Medio Period farmers used a variety of mineral pigments for painted murals and/or for makeup and body paint. They also conducted rituals with colorful scarlet and military macaws, which Charles Di Peso thought were related to water making ceremonies that used red/green symbolism. It consequently seems likely that such color symbolism is reflected in other contexts such as pottery where the entire range of color could not be reflected. Our analysis uses naturalistic images to evaluate what colors might be represented by black designs and what characteristics might be used to differentiate between the colors. For example, some double headed macaw effigies appear to depict scarlet macaws (painted with red heads) and military macaws (which have their green heads portrayed using black), suggesting that sometimes black paint can be read as green. Other times, black appears to really reflect black. Further, black can be used to denote different textures. Black speckling on the front of quail indicates downy feathers, whereas checkerboards and grids indicate scales.

Cite this Record

The Multivalence of Black in Casas Grandes Iconography. Christine VanPool, Todd VanPool. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452120)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -123.97; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -92.549; max lat: 37.996 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 23986