Understanding The History Of Navajo Pottery

Posted by jasminmaclean on September 27th, 2019

Navajo pottery can be traced back to the 16th century. While the tribe is recognized for their beautiful art forms such as weaving and sand painting, they weren’t really known for pottery. It always remained a craft that held less significance. Additionally, unlike other Native American tribes, the Navajo were not traditionally what you would call artistic potters. Navajo women made pots purely for household and ceremonial purposes. It was only when the railroad crossed America that they began to practice pottery as an art. Soon, they became a force in the pottery market along with the Hopi tribe, who were already successful. Today, along with traditional Navajo pottery, you will also find other products that are inspired by the pottery, such as Navajo coffee mugs, which sometimes feature pottery designs.

Here are some more such interesting facts about Navajo pottery:

1.Pottery is a great way to learn their history.

Hardened clay survives for hundreds of years, making clay items some of the best mediums to study history. In the case of the Navajo tribe, archeologists were able to unearth shards of clay pots, which allowed them to study their origins. Since potters made pots near their own homes, such archeological finds shed light on many aspects of social history.

2.Traditional Navajo pots were thick and crude.

Pots that came from Hopi or Pueblo Indians were usually fragile and thinly fabricated. They were also beautifully decorated. On the other hand, Navajo pots were thick and crude, as they were mostly used for household uses and ceremonies. They were made using a mix of different types of clays, which lent them their sturdy build.
 
3.The Navajo people used a special gloss to set their pots apart from other tribes.

The Navajo potters fired their pots like everyone else, but before they cooled, melted pitch from pinyon trees was used to coat them. This provided the pots with a shiny finish. It not only made the pots waterproof but also gave them a different look and smell, which set them apart from pots made by other tribes.
In the late 1800s, with the introduction of manufactured pottery, the demand for Navajo pottery saw a sharp decline. Today, many artists experiment with new, non-traditional designs that are a far cry from the traditional undecorated pots. You will even find a rendition of those designs in other products like Navajo art coffee mugs.


Did you know? Navajos believe that old pottery shards should not be removed from the ground as they belong to the Anasazi, their forefathers.

Author’s bio: The author is a blogger. This article is about Navajo pottery.