- C. E. Smith Anthropology Museum
- Current events
- Current Exhibits
- Visit Our Gallery
- previous events
- Previous Exhibitions
- Virtual Museum
- Museum of Mud
- African Art
- Bay Area Archaeological Archive
- Native California
- Native Southwest
- Precolumbian Art
Tierra Blanca: A Rare and Cherished ResourceIn the Valley of Taos in northern New Mexico, a natural geological material called tierra blanca is used as a whitewash to brighten up walls in adobe homes. Containing high levels of gypsum and mica, it creates a snowy powder when pulverized. These pieces you see here were sourced from the adobe wall of a 19th century whiskey distillery located in not far from the town of Taos in Northern New Mexico.
Earthen Architecture and Kachinas: A Special Connection
Kachinas are spirits revered by the Hopi and other Puebloan tribes in the American Southwest. They embody elements of the real world and are said to visit the mesas following the rhythm of the seasons. When kachinas visit the mesas to perform ceremonial dances, underground rooms called kivas are integral to the ceremonies and their earthen quality directly connects the spiritual world to that of everyday life in Puebloan society.
Kachina dolls or katsina figures, are created to represent these spirits. Initially used to educate children about the sprits, the meticulous artistry of the dolls has made them a sought after form of Natinve American art.
The Sun Kachina represents warmth, hope, and a bright future, embodying an important celestial body to the Hopi people, the sun. Supporting all life on earth, the sun is central to both their cosmological and physical universe, and is vital to a successful harvest.
The Hopi Mudhead Kachina, also known as Koyemsi to the Zuni, is one of the most popular kachinas. The Mudhead kachina focuses on amusing audiences as a clown during ceremonial gatherings. In addition to amusing audiences, they also perform as a variety of other ceremonial roles, including that of chief.
The Mud Thrower kachina is also known as a “comic kachina”, as they delight audiences at ceremonial dances with their humorous performances. The Mud Thrower kachina is known for inviting onlookers to participate in races, whereupon the loser will have mud thrown in their face.