Salado branch of the Mogollon
Southeastern Arizona, United States
Ritual Cache
1300/1400

Wood, stone, plant fiber, cotton, feather, leather, and pigment
Male figure: h. 64 cm (25 1/4 in.); Female figure: h. 36 cm (14 3/16 in.)
Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment, 1979.17.1–11

This group of objects has been attributed to the Mimbres/Salado culture, which flourished in New Mexico between the 10th and 12th century. The male figure symbolizes the sky. The black-and-turquoise zigzag pattern probably refers to lightning and rainstorms. The black-and-white patterns around his waist may represent stars and constellations. The sculpture bears resemblance to figures known as katchinas, still seen and used among the Pueblo people. It was part of a set of figures and throwing sticks that were discovered wrapped and stored in a cave. Natural formations such as caves were important features of ancient Native American sacred geography as places to communicate with the life-giving spirits of the earth, sky, and water.