The Archaeology of Color in the Southwest

Author(s): Michelle I. Turner

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 plays a central role in the work of many archaeologists. We use it to establish cultural affiliation and seriation, to analyze artifacts, and to interpret sites. We type pottery, source glass, and identify lithic materials based largely on their colors. Yet the use and meaning of color have not been widely and systematically examined in archaeological thought and theory. Drawing on archaeological examples, as well as ethnographic literature and theoretical contributions from art history and anthropology, I will introduce this symposium with a general consideration of the archaeology of color. Ongoing research has advanced our understanding of the technologies, resources and chemical processes involved in color production, but color is much more than just a set of technological choices. Nor is it merely an aesthetic experience; color is also used to signal social identity, carry political messages, convey knowledge, confer prestige, connect to places and landscapes, and establish systems of ritual symbolism. As an introduction to this symposium on color in Southwest archaeology, this paper offers an overview of theoretical, ethnographic, scientific and methodological approaches to the study of color and its role in the lives of people in the past.

Cite this Record

The Archaeology of Color in the Southwest. Michelle I. Turner. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452122)

Spatial Coverage

min long: -124.365; min lat: 25.958 ; max long: -93.428; max lat: 41.902 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 25422