George Pepper’s article on the excavation of Room 33 at Pueblo Bonito is fairly well-known and frequently cited, but he also published a few other articles on specific finds by the Hyde Exploring Expedition that have remained more obscure. Among these is a chapter in a Festschrift for Franz Boas, similar to the Festschrift for Frederick Ward Putnam in which the Room 33 article appeared, describing the pottery vessels in human form found by the expedition. These effigy vessels often get mentioned in discussions of Chaco, but are rarely given much close attention these days. Pepper’s description of them, which I have transcribed and posted below, is fascinating for a number of reasons. In the text Pepper notes that the vessels are very anatomically correct, which is quite clear from the photographs included with the article, so some discretion about where and when to read this post may be in order. I may discuss these vessels further some other time, but for now I just want to make Pepper’s description available.
Human Effigy Vases from Chaco Cañon, New Mexico.
By George H. Pepper
The distribution of human effigy vases in the southwestern part of the United States presents an interesting problem. The Pueblo country has furnished but few such objects for comparison; and any new locality in which they are found, especially when situated in the northern boundaries of the culture area, is worthy of consideration.
In the explorations carried on by the Hyde Expedition in the ruined Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Cañon, New Mexico, several portions of human effigy vases were found, and the head of a large effigy vase was taken from a room that contained ceremonial material. This deposit was described in the “American Anthropologist” as Room 38, and by this name it will be known whenever it is mentioned in this article.
The human figure from Room 38 furnished an object worthy of a detailed report, but the finding of a complete figure from the Chaco Cañon strengthened conclusions already formed concerning the specialized form from this restricted area.
The perfect figure is the property of Professor and Mrs. F. W. Putnam. It was in the possession of a trader at Putnam, Chaco Cañon, and was bought by J. W. Hastings, a Harvard student, who gave it to the present owners. The specimen was found in a grave in the Chaco Cañon, but the exact location of the burial is not known.
The jars in question were considered from the standpoint of decoration in an endavor to identify them by means of modern katcinas, or impersonators of gods. According to the evidence that has been gathered among the Zuñi and Hopi, it would seem that clans from the region of the Chaco had migrated to both of these modern towns.
After studying the katcina masks figured by Dr. Fewkes in his work on the katcinas of the modern Hopi, it was found that the face of the He’heā mana was in many respects an exact counterpart of that of the fragment of the effigy vase from Room 38, Bonito.
Mrs. Stevenson’s book on the Zuñi gives a large series of masks and figures, but none of them present markings or physical characteristics in keeping with the figures under consideration, nor any that might have been the prototypes of the effigy-vase faces. Owing to the zigzag markings on the face of the masks, the He’heā Kĭa’nilona and the Hémishikwe goddess were noted for special study, but no particular attention was given to the He’heā until mention of this mask was found in Dr. Fewkes’s monograph on the effigy vase from Arizona. The coincidence was striking, and particularly so in view of the fact that the Hopi mana of this form of katcina had been identified as being the one nearest related to the figure from Pueblo Bonito, before mention of the resemblance of the one found by Dr. Fewkes to the Zuñi form had been noted.
Before entering upon a description of the Chaco Cañon forms, a brief résumé of the monograph by Dr. Fewkes, showing the type of figure found by him and the distribution of such figures, will serve as a guide in making comparisons, and will be conducive to a better understanding of the question in general.
The vase from Arizona was found in a cave in the upper part of the Gila Valley, in a section known as Pueblo Viejo. This valley is in Graham County, between Mount Graham and the Bonita Mountains. The vessell is of red clay, made in the form of a seated figure. It is rough on the exterior, and undecorated save for a few lines under the eyes. It is a female figure, with the arms and face modelled in relief. The body is of a globular form, and there is no suggestion of legs. The eyes and mnose are large and well defined; but the mouth is small, and rectangular in form. Flat, half-circular pieces form the ears, and both are drilled for the suspension of an ornament. The rim of the opening, which is the full diameter of the head, begins at a point half an inch above the eyes. The arms are flattened against the sides of the body, the fore-arm bending forward, and the closed hands resting upon the abdomen. The type is not unique from the Gila-Salado watershed. Dr. Fewkes considers that the origin of this form is traceable to direct Mexican influence, and that the type extended to the head waters of the Gila. At the time that this specimen was described, none had been found north of the White Mountains in Arizona, according to the writer’s knowledge.
The Pueblo Bonito Type.—The head of an effigy vase from Room 38, Pueblo Bonito, has a face that is flat and circular (Plate XXVIII, Fig. 2). The facial plane, as viewed in profile, presents a slightly rounded appearance, but there has been no endeavor to conform to the natural configuration of the sides of the head. The eyes, nose, and mouth are modelled, and there is a slight upward tilt at the lower part of the face, which forms a chin. The nose expands slightly at the base, and nostrils have been formed by holes punched with some pointed implement. The nostril-openings are outlined with black circles. The mouth and eye openings average nearly one centimetre in depth. They are of an ovoid form, and the left eye retains a well-modelled eyeball. This is a separate piece of clay, which extends from the surface at the back of the eye-opening to the level of the eyelids. The diameter is uniform throughout its length, and the end which forms the pupil is painted black. The tongue is of the same character, and its end is painted with the same color. The eyelids and the lips are in slight relief, and are outlined with a narrow line of black. The eyebrows are formed by ridges which merge into the base of the nose; they are accentuated by broad lines of black paint. The ears are well formed and carefully placed. Viewed from the front, they are partly concealed by the projecting edge of the face.
The facial decorations, which are suggestive of tattooing, are composed of bands formed by dotted lines beneath the eyes, and a scroll on the chin. Under the rigth eye the design is formed by means of five lines, four of which have six dots, and one five. The space occupied is about equi-distant from the eye-opening and the upper part of the scroll on the chin. The corresponding series under the left eye has the same number of lines; but, owing to the fact that they have been placed closer together, the band is narrower, and four of the five lines have eight dots and one seven. The scroll forming the chin decoration is composed of the same-sized dots as in the other designs. It is a continuous line, forming a triple combination, the central double scroll directly under the mouth joining single scrolls of similar form on either side. The design in its entirety occupies the whole lower portion of the face.
The neck of the jar is ovoid in shape, and has a line of black paint on its edge. This line is open on the posterior edge, which brings up the question of the open and closed “life-lines,” as seen in pottery from the Southwest. About three centimetres below the rim, straight lines, representing the hair, begin. They continue over the founded surface of the occiput. Behind, and at a level with the lower lobes of the ears, coils of hair are represented (Plate XXVIII, Fig. 1). They are not of the circular form now worn by the marriageable girls of the Hopi, but are elongate in form. They are 3.5 cm. long, and over the central portion of each are two strands of clay made to represent cords. These cords are carried from the base-lines across the back of the head. They are raised four millimetres above the surface. The ends of the coils, and the face of the cord projection, are painted black. The lines that form the back hair end at the cross-band. The office of such a band is the retention of the back hair, and in a realistic portrayal the hair-lines should pass under it.
At the base of the neck, which is massive, are the remains of a decoration in the form of interlined triangles similar to those on the torso of the figure from Room 46, Bonito, which is herein described. Similar decorations may be noted on the upper part of the breast, as shown in the illustration in Plate XXVIII, Fig. 2. The height of this effigy head is 13.4 cm. The face is 9.9 cm. wide, and 9.1 cm. high. The nose projects 1.6 cm. above the face-plain; and the neck is almost circular, there being a difference of but one millimetre between the width and the thickness, the latter measurement being 7.4 cm.
Among the modern Hopi katcinas, the He’heā mana has the hair-whorl of the maidens. In comparing the head from Room 38 with the mask of this mana as figured by a Hopi artist, a very strong resemblance may be noticed. The face of the mana is caused to appear circular in form by the arrangement of the hair, which extends to a point near to, or perhaps actually covering, the upper part of the ears.
In the Bonito figure the hair is represented by a series of short lines, which form a dark band on the upper rim of the face, extending a little below the upper lobes of the ears. The eyes of the figures are similar in shape, as is also the mouth. The eyeball of the Bonito figure is represented by a painted ball in the mana, and its tongue is painted in such a way as to reproduce the form of the other most perfectly. Continuing with the analogy, we find that the mana has well-defined eyebrows; these physical characteristics, in as pronounced a state and of the same form, are found on the face of the effigy-vase head. The nose is of an elongated form in both figures.
The He’heā mana has zigzag lines forming decorations on the cheeks, and ear-rings of turquoise pendant from the ears. These embellishments and decorations change the appearance of the face of the mana. In the effigy figure there are no perforations in the ear-lobes from which an ear-ring might be suspended; and the facial decoration is in the form of parallel dotted lines on either cheek, and a peculiar scroll, formed also of dots, on the chin. The mana has decorations similar to those of her brother, and is no doubt associated in some way with the grinding of the corn in special ceremonies. From the arrangement of the dotted lines on the cheeks of the effigy, it would seem that they were intended to represent a corn symbol. There are such conclusive evidences in Pueblo Bonito that this form of decoration was intended to convey the idea of the ear of corn with the individual kernels, that the interpretation of this particular design as one typifying the corn would be but a natural conclusion.
Regarding the scroll on the chin, nothing can be said. Certain ideas are suggested by its form, but none of them are supported by evidence weighty enough to warrant serious consideration.
Torso from Bonito.—The torso of a human figure was found in Room 48 of Pueblo Bonito, and is suggestive of the phallic designs which appear upon the He’heā and He’heā mana. It represents a portion of a seated figure; and from the angle of the remaining portion of the leg, it would seem that the legs were drawn up against the body, the feet no doubt resting flat upon the ground, with the knees outward. The texture of the clay, the differentiation in color due to the firing, and the general technique of the work, would seem to place it as the lower part of the torso of the effigy vase found in Room 38, or of a figure similar in size and form. The fact that the pieces were found in different rooms would have no special bearing on the question, as fragments of other vessels and implements have been encountered in widely separated rooms in this pueblo. In studying the torso in detail, we find that the lower part of the abdomen, a portion of the left leg, and the major part of the hips, are the only parts represented in the fragment. As shown in the accompanying illustration (Plate XXVIII, Fig. 3), the figure measures 12.8 cm. in height, and 14 cm. in width. The cross-section of the leg shows a thickness of 3 cm. This leg is solid, as is the case with the fragments of arms that were found with it. There are evidences that human figures were made to quite an extent in the Chaco Cañon region, and from the fragments of legs and arms we know that in Pueblo Bonito they were made both in the hollow form and of solid construction.
In modelling this figure, the anatomy received serious attention, the genital organs being represented faithfully and in their proper relations. The vulva is very pronounced. The mons veneris rises over a centimetre above the abdominal plane, and the labia majora slope from this point to the vaginal orifice. The labia majora are parted, and from the upper section there protrudes a ball of clay, which was evidenctly made to represent the clitoris. It was adjusted in the same manner as was the eyeball in the figure from Room 38. It is 6 mm. in length. The vaginal opening and the anus are represented by openings that were made with some blunt implement while the clay was in a plastic state. The labia majora have been outlined with a broad black line, and the end of the clitoris is painted with the same color. The abdomen is decorated with a double series of triangles, which are filled with lines, forming a hachure effect. Between these are two broad bands which are divided into three parts at their lower ends. Owing to the fact that the upper part of the body is missing, it is impossible to tell what these bands were meant to represent; but from their form it seems quite possible that they were the ends of a scarf of some kind, that hung from the shoulders, or at least from the upper part of the decorated area, the general decorations possibly showing the paintings of a mana, and the scarf a portion of her dress.
The decorative element shown on this specimen is similar to that which has been preserved on the neck part of the figure from Room 38. The decoration, the outlining of the vulva in the same manner as are the eyes and mouth in the other specimen, and the finding with the torso of an arm which has the same scroll ornamentation as that shown on the chin of the other figure from Bonito, present similarities that are self-apparent. The section of the upper arm is shown in Fig. 13, d. This fragment is of solid pottery, 10.7 cm. long, and 2 cm. in diameter on the wider axis. It is somewhat flattened, as is also the companion-piece found in the same room. The second arm-fragment is heavier, and the diameter is greater. Both specimens have a rosette on the shoulder, with a black mark in the centre.
The scroll on the first-mentioned arm is not the same in form, nor is the arrangement of the dots the same, as that on the chin; but in both cases a continuous line is maintained,—on the chin with a single line of dots, on the arm with a double line.
Human Effigy Jar from Chaco Cañon.―The effigy jar mentioned as having been found in the Chaco Cañon and now in the possession of Professor Putnam is unusual, in view of its perfect condition as well as from the standpoint of workmanship. It is made of the usual light-colored clay, with a white slip over the entire outer surface. Over this, designs in black have been painted. The figure is that of a seated man. The legs are flexed, and the feet rest flatly upon the ground. From the position of the fragment of the leg in the torso of the figure from Room 38, Bonito, it would seem that the legs of that body had been in the same position as in this figure. The arms of the perfect figure are crossed on the breast, and the elbows rest upon the knees. The neck is slightly ovoid in form; the nose is modelled in relief, is narrow at the top, and broadens considerably at the end; the nostrils are represented by depressions. The eyes and mouth are narrow incisions. One peculiarity presented by these organs is the painting of the inner edges of the depressions with black. This is quite noticeable, compared with the outlining of the eyes and mouth as shown in the other figures. There is but one ear, the other having been broken off: it is a half-circular projection of clay, flat, and with no attempt at modelling. A hole was forced through the central portion, probably for the suspension of an ear-ring, or perhaps a feather. A side view of the figure, as seen in Plate XXIX, Fig. 1, shows the body to be that of a humpback. Deformed figures of this kind are represented in the Hopi katcinas of the present day. Dr. Fewkes, in his description of katcinas, says, in speaking of one of them, “A hump is always found on the back in pictures or dolls of Kokopelli.” The representation of deformed human beings of this nature in pottery and stone is quite widespread. They are not uncommon in Mexico, being found especially in the Huaxteca and Totonac regions of Vera Cruz and in the Valley of Mexico. Pottery figures with this deformity are also known from the Mississippi Valley and from some of the Southern States. The profile which this picture presents enables us to study the facial characteristics to better advantage than the full-face reproduction. The face is shown to be dish-shaped, the forehead low, the cheeks depressed, the nose and lips sharply defined, and the chin pointed, with an upward tilt. In Plate XXIX, Fig. 2, the formation of the chin may be noted; the pointing has caused a seeming elongation of the cheeks, so that they seem to hang on either side of the chin. The head in its entirety shows careful work in the modelling, the occiput being strongly defined and the contour of the cranium well balanced. The profile view shows the thickness of the projection which forms the ear, also the depression that was made in the cheek in punching the hole through it. Considerable care and attention have been given to the modelling of the hip, and even the calf of the leg is accentuated. The backward tilt of the head overcomes what would otherwise be a somewhat overbalanced figure, and from the angle of the neck it seems quite certain that this was intentional.
The top of the head, showing the neck of the vessel and the formation of the arms, is best seen in Fig. 3 of this plate. Here the vessel has been tilted forward, in order that the designs on the shoulders might be seen. The neck is similar in shape to that of the head from Room 38, Bonito. The perfect one is round, slightly incurved at its base, and rests on the top of the head; whereas the other is more oval, and the back part slopes gently to the back of the head, there being no perceptible difference in the lines of the two parts. The arms themselves have been carefully worked, and are in keeping with the general high class of technique shown in other parts of the figure; but the hand that rests on the breast is quite crude, and the absence of the hand on the right wrist is surely intentional. Careful examination of the plate will show that the stump of the arm has been rounded and smoothed, and that the end has been painted.
The decorations of this jar, the facial paintings, and the figures on the body, are unusual. The hair is represented by a broad black band above the eyes. In Fig. 1, the continuation of this hair area may be followed. It covers the back part of the head, passing over the temples and behind the ears. It is then contracted to a broad band which passes over the neck, thence down the back, covering the point of the hump, and ends just below it, the end and sides forming right angles. Whether the band in its entirety was intended to show a particular form of hair-dressing, or whether the band from the neck downward was made to represent some ceremonial paraphernalia that was attached to the hair, cannot be determined, as the band shows no break or differentiation in form where it would join the hair at the base of the head. On the right cheek there are six straight lines, extending from a point on a level, and connected with the outer corner of the eye, to the lower point of the cheek-line. These decorations are connected at the top by means of a curved line. On the left cheek there is a similar series of lines. There are seven in this group, and they are connected at the top with a straight line. They pass over a protuberance on the left cheek, its appearance indicating that it was intentional, and it may have been made to represent some deformity. It is 5 mm. high and 1 cm. in diameter. There are no cracks on the surface, and it is too large and regular in form to have been the result of a blister in the clay as the result of firing. Between the nose and the mouth are two zigzag lines resting on a straight line which follows the upper part of the mouth. Two wavy lines depend from either corner of the mouth, and there are four lines of a similar form on either side of the neck.
It has been impossible to associate this figure with any of the modern katcinas. There are several that have the zigzag markings on the face, and some have one or two lines on the cheeks, but none have been found that approximated the decoration shown in this effigy vase. The decoration on the arms consists of bands composed of three and four lines, which span the outer half of the arm circumference. There are five of these bands on the right arm, and three on the left. The right leg has a series of three broad bands extending from a point just below the knee to the feet,—one in front, and one on either side. The left leg has four bands of similar form. In both cases they are connected by a line just below the knee. A broad belt with breech-cloth appendage is shown in the two front views on Plate XXIX (Figs. 2, 3). It broadens on the back of the figure, and completely encircles it. In Fig. 1 the continuation of the belt-like band is seen. The idea of the artist was no doubt a faithful portrayal of the figure as it would appear in life. If so, realism was not attained in the painting of the band where it passes from the side to the front of the figure. Here the band is carried over the leg, instead of ending at the point where the leg joins the body. If, on the other hand, the painting as shown was intentional, it would show that the legs of the figure had been bound against the body with this band, and, instead of being a belt, it would be a binding cord. The latter supposition is hardly tenable, in view of the fact that the breech-cloth form is represented as being a part of the band. On the sides of the jar the band has a series of pointed figures. These are attached to the upper edge. Just back of them, and in the spaces between the shoulders and the hair-band, there are zigzag designs composed of four lines. They start from the belt-line, and extend upward over the shoulders, ending on either side of the neck.
On the right breast there is the figure of a bird. The body is an irregular square, which is filled with dots representing feathers. The head, tail, and one foot are also shown. On the left shoulder there is a diamond-shaped figure, with one end flattened. The space within the lines is filled with dots. It was no doubt meant to represent a butterfly. On the right shoulder is a circular figure which encloses a second circle and a dot. On the chest are four heavy zigzag lines, which start from the breech-cloth band, and end just below the crossed arms. All of these designs are in black. Certain physical features worthy of mention are the crudely modelled feet and hand, the existence of a raised section on the left side, forming a breast, and the genital organs. The penis is in relief, and the scrotum has been painted black. The figure is 19 cm. high and 10.4 cm. wide; from the breast to point of hump, 10.6 cm. The face is 7.1 cm. wide; from chin to forehead, 5.1 cm. The neck is 3.5 cm. wide.
Fragments of Effigy-Jar Faces from Pueblo Bonito.—A number of effigy-jar faces in a fragmentary condition were found in Pueblo Bonito, two of the most complete of which are shown in Fig. 13, b and c. They are of the flat, shield-like form. The former specimen, which was found in Room 105, shows the upper part of the face. The hair is represented by a band of black extending across the forehead and down the left side of the face. The eyes have been formed by slight indentations, which are accentuated with black lines. The nose is long and narrow, and raised 7 mm. above the surface. The ornamentation is in the form of three painted lines in black, which begin at the lower sides of the nose, and evidently extended on either side to the hair-line on the side of the face. The face itself is curved, the angle being similar to that of the figure from Room 38. The top of the head is similar to the perfect figure described, the line from the forehead to the base of the neck-projection being almost a right angle. This fragment was no doubt the top of a jar similar to the other two figured in this article. It is of the usual white ware, the ornamentation being in black.
The specimen shown in Fig. 13, c, represents a portion of another figure of the flat, shield-like form. The clay and paint are the same as in the last specimen described. It was found in Room 170 of Pueblo Bonito, and presents an entirely different style of decoration from that of the other pieces that have been noted. The facial plane is slightly curved, but it is more nearly flat than any of the others. The eye, as shown in the remaining portion of the upper part of the face, is a shallow depression, as is also the mouth. Both are painted,—the eye, within the opening only; the mouth, outlined with a heavy black band. The nose is in relief, and carefully modelled. The ear is almost a duplication of that shown in the illustration of the perfect figure. A hole has been drilled through it for the reception of an ornament. The decoration consists of a heavy band on either side of the face; two lines between the nose and mouth, which enclose a line of dots; and a third line drawn below the mouth, causing this organ to occupy the centre of a rectangle. Passing downward from this line on either side of the chin, are four straight lines, which begin at the third line mentioned, and extend to the edge of the chin. This specimen was in two pieces, which were found in different parts of the room.
Face fragment from Pueblo Peñasca Blanca.—The jar fragment shown in Fig. 13, a, was found by Professor Putnam in the ruins of Pueblo Peñasca Blanca, Chaco Cañon. It shows an entirely different treatment from those that have been described. The general effect is the same; and the face, no doubt, was of the shield form; but the eye has been more carefully modelled than those of the other specimens that have come from the Chaco. The brow is represented in relief, and beneath it a well-formed eyeball is shown. It protrudes 4 mm. above the eye-cavity. The lids are formed by two heavy black lines, and the pupil is indicated by a dot. The only other decoration shown is the band over the forehead, representing the hair, and six narrow lines on the left temple and the remains of one on the right temple. These lines emanate from the black band, and are carried backward over the head. They evidently represent a loose arrangement of the hair. The neck is similar to that in the perfect figure; it is more flaring, however, and the rim is painted black. The clay of which this figure was made is somewhat lighter in color than that shown in the other specimens, but the composition is the same.
Conclusions.—The human effigy jars from the Chaco Cañon have extended the area limit of this form of ceramics several degrees northward in the Pueblo region. Vessels of this nature were in use in Mexico in very early times; and the influence of the Mexican tribes upon the Pueblo people, both in ceramics and in other æsthetic productions, is well known. How great this influence has been on the Pueblo of the North, however, is a question. The arts had reached a high state of development in the Chaco region before the abandonment of the great towns took place; and in Pueblo Bonito, which is the only ruin that has been explored, specialized forms of pottery are found; for instance, cylindrical jars of a certain form, which are, so far as known, restricted to this pueblo. The great variety of forms in most of the wares known to the Southwest indicates either an extensive interchange of specimens or the utilization of ideas as applied to fictile work in the other towns of the region.
The figure described by Dr. Fewkes is closely allied to those found in the Casas Grandes region of Chihuahua, and a similar type has been found in the Socorro region of New Mexico. The general treatment of the face and mouth of the vessels from these parts differs radically from that of the Chaco forms. The modelling of the arms and legs in the round is peculiar to the Chaco, and the specialization of the neck is another marked difference. The head from Room 38, Bonito, is as large as many whole figures from the other regions, and the vase in its entirety must have been at least 30 cm. in height. Stone figures of this size were made, and many of them have been found in the Southwest that were much larger than this figure, but the making of such forms in pottery is known only in the Chaco area.
The Chaco culture is evidently an old one; and the ruins, at least Pueblo Bonito, show no evidences of contact with the Spaniards. It probably lay in ruins at the time of the Conquest. In view of this fact, we may safely affirm that this specialization in pottery forms was developed prior to historic times, and, if copied from the southern forms, it was modified to meet local ceremonial or æsthetic conditions. No records have been found of human forms in pottery from the cave or cliff dwellings of Colorado, Utah, or northern Arizona. This causes the Chaco specimens to hold the most northern point known in the pueblo area, and therefore the farthest removed from the culture from which they may have been derived.
There are many interesting phases of the problem, aside from those of influence and technique. The association of ideas may enable students to trace the origin of certain clans to this region. The fact that the He’heā and the He’heā mana of the Hopi have phallic symbols on their arms, legs, and bodies, and the association of these figures with the meal-grinding ceremonies, present points of analogy that are worthy of study; and, from the evidence obtainable, these Hopi katcinas are very ancient. It is to be hoped that students of cult survivals and those that have been developed in historic times in the pueblo country may be able to use the evidence presented by these specimens in strengthening and extending the knowledge of clan attributes and clan migrations.
Fewkes, J. (1898). An Ancient Human Effigy Vase from Arizona American Anthropologist, 11 (6), 165-170 DOI: 10.1525/aa.1898.11.6.02a00000
Pepper, G. (1905). Ceremonial Objects and Ornaments from Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico American Anthropologist, 7 (2), 183-197 DOI: 10.1525/aa.1905.7.2.02a00010