Painted pottery from the Galaz ruin : figurative style in Mimbres art




Farmer, James (James D.)

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Using bowls from the Galaz site as a starting point, this study uses a synthetic approach to analyze the Mimbres painted bowls. Chronology, style, iconography, and social history are all considered, with the focus on why and how the Mimbres figurative style developed when it did. The discussions of style and chronology deal with Mimbres painted images from an intrinsic point of view. These sections provide a discussion of recent conclusions regarding the Mimbres ceramic chronology and seriations, and present a formal analysis of the figurative style, differentiating between two different forms, defined herein as 'Emblematic' and 'Narrative'. The iconographic analysis details the various subjects depicted in the Galaz bowls. Though still a basically intrinsic approach, images and ethnography from other Mimbres sites and historical Puebloan communities are considered for comparative purposes, thereby expanding the range from a single site to the entire Mimbres culture. The stylistic and iconographical analyses are designed to provide an understanding of both the temporal and aesthetic boundaries of Mimbres figurative imagery within the overall Mimbres ceramic history. The section on social history investigates the question of whether or not the sequential appearance of related yet distinctive styles is an inevitable result of uninterrupted formal evolution. Specifically, is the figurative style a product of a mere formal mutation in the purely geometric style, and by extension, does the same hold true for the division within the figurative images between emblematic and narrative scenes? The hypothesis is that the development of a more distinctive form of artistic expression resulted from a reaction against an external source, principally intensified culture contact between the Mimbres and neighboring groups, as manifested through extensive formal trade networks. Of particular note is the florescence of a dominant trade network centered at the site of Casas Grandes in present-day Chihuahua, Mexico, on the southern periphery of the Mimbres area. Although this area is believed to have been primarily a portion of the Mogollon culture, to which the Mimbres also belonged, the rise of Casas Grandes to a dominant role seems to have been fueled in great part by its strong contacts with cultures further to the south, along the West Coast and in the Central Highlands of Mexico. In this light, the evolution of a distinctive Mimbres figurative style may be seen as an expression of heightened ethnic consciousness. Evidence from contemporary Puebloan societies as well as anthropological treatises on the effects of intensive trade networks in other Pre-Columbian societies is brought to bear on the case of Mimbres stylistic development. Formal relationships in style between Mimbres and neighboring culture areas, including the Anasazi, Hohokam and Southern Mogollon, are considered. That section of the study invites the reader to view the development of certain formal characteristics in the Mimbres ceramic sequence as a response to specific social phenomena