The Parrot Woman of Pottery Mound

Pottery Mound was a late prehistoric village on the bank of the Rio Puerco, west of Los Lunas, New Mexico. It was an adobe pueblo most likely occupied between 1350 and 1500. The site is best known for its 17 kivas, which yielded a large number of murals. It has the greatest variety of pottery of any prehistoric site in central New Mexico. Imported pottery includes Hopi decorated and plain wares, white paste wares from the Acoma-Zuni region of west-central New Mexico, and biscuit wares from north-central New Mexico (Franklin 2007).

Pottery Mound is named after the large number of potsherds lying on the site surface, and after its low mound of melted adobe. The site was part of the Rio Grande Glaze Ware tradition that began ca. 1315 and continued until the time of the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico in 1693. The site's signature pottery, Pottery Mound Polychrome, includes red and black paint on a background consisting of two slip colors (on bowls, one slip color on the inside and the other on the outside). As is typical in the southern part of the glaze ware production area, Glaze A pottery (simple rim forms) predominates (Franklin 2007).

The mural depicts a woman wearing ceremonial face paint holding a pair of scarlet macaws. These large, colorful parrots were not native to the American Southwest, but were imported to Pottery Mound from the tropical forests of Central and South America, hundreds of miles away. The brilliant colors of the birds' feathers created a striking contrast to the pervasive dull earthtones of this land of desert scenery, which made them especially prized by the people of Pottery Mound, if we may judge from the numerous times they appear in the ancient Pottery Mound murals.

The theme of bringing rain, or calling upon the supernatural to deliver it, is evident throughout this painting, with lightning flashing from a painted bowl balanced on the woman's head and insects associated with water--mosquitoes and dragonflies--surrounding her. She wears a dress of cotton fabric with a typical white Anasazi pattern woven into it, and around her waist is a sash trimmed with tassels. The meaning or identity of the fragmentary object at the lower right of the painting is unknown. The painted stripes upon which the girl stands probably extended all the way around the room and connected this paintings to other ones in the kiva.


Original Parrot Woman mural as it appeared during excavation at Pottery Mound.

Reproduction of an Anasazi Indian kiva mural by Thomas Baker.

Art by Fernando Padilla, Jr.; Padilla of San Felipe.