Tusayan, Ancestral Puebloan  


  • Late Pueblo III Phase, 1250–1300
  • Earthenware, painted with colored slips
  • 2 9/16 x 4 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College: Bequest of Frank C. and Clara G. Churchill; 46.17.10686

visibilityLook & Discuss

This ladle is about 750 years old. It is typical of the type of ceramics produced by Pueblo cultures between the years 1250 and 1300. It was formed by hand, using coils of clay, then painted with vegetable paints and fired in a stone oven.

explore the object

Pottery was produced hundreds of years ago in the Southwest by a method called coiling and scraping. A clay “snake” is coiled around in a spiral, forming the base to a vessel. The potter adds on more “snakes” or coils to create the basic shape of the vessel. Then the coils are scraped together, erasing all signs of the seams.

Pottery was traditionally made by women. They probably used shaped pieces of wood or gourds as scrapers to do this work. Smooth stones were used to polish the surfaces of bowls.

Ancestral Pueblo pottery is called Black-on-White. The white is from the color of the clay. The black paint used for the designs was made from boiled plants, like beeweed or tansy mustard, or from crushed rock with iron in it, such as hematite. Paintbrushes were made from the fibers of the yucca plant.

The ladle has a bowl with a square, unpainted center. Heavy applications of black pigment surround the white center in four divisions. The geometric patterns of zigzags and angular interlocking scrolls are typical of the complexity of ancient Pueblo ceramic patterns. The zigzags may represent lightning, storms, and rain. The four divisions may represent the four cardinal directions. Unpainted or reserved centers inside bowls or ladles may represent the place of emergence for the Pueblo people from the underworld into this world. 

Clay is considered sacred to Pueblo people. Ancient Puebloan history tells us that the gods used clay to create mankind. Clay is collected from the land, along with the plants used for glazes. Each Pueblo group had its own distinctive pottery style.

This ladle was probably used for ceremony. Pottery that was used every day was probably left unpainted.

Activity: Simple Coiled Pottery

learn more


Watch this video to see art historian Joyce Szabo discuss this ladle.


Southwest: Histories & Identities