Historic Acoma Pueblo Polychrome Olla Jar, ca. 1890
With a high rounded shoulder and a raising tapered neck, this substantial polychrome Acoma Pueblo olla jar is in outstanding condition, boasting no cracks or chips. The natural wear of the painted surface adds to the charm of this historic piece. With a deep interior cavity, the exterior painted symbolism speaks of rain, wind, and fields of crops.
Situated at the top of a mesa, Acoma Pueblo also known as ‘Sky City’, has been inhabited since before the twelfth century and is proclaimed as a National Historic Landmark. Traditional Acoma pottery is made using a slate-like clay found within the hills surrounding the Pueblo. When fired using traditional methods, this clay allows the potters to form very thin walls, a common and sought after characteristic of Acoma pottery. The pottery of Acoma, aside from its prized artistic value, was originally functional. Pottery provided storage, cooking, and eating. water jugs were used by the men of Acoma for long hunting trips or camping. Other pots were used as seed pots to store seeds for planting in the coming years. Today the pottery of Acoma is not only revered and collected for its unique artistic characteristics, but also because of its immensely rich historical value.
The Spanish settlers may have introduced the olla to Native American tribes, but it is likely they had developed a similar shape on their own using unglazed pottery. Among Southwestern Native tribes, ollas used for storing water often were made with bulbous bodies and narrow necks to prevent evaporation in the desert heat.