Salado branch of the Mogollon
Southeastern Arizona, United States
Ritual Cache, 1300/1400
Wood, stone, plant fibers, cotton, feathers, hide, 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
Discovered wrapped and hidden in a remote, dry cave, this cache of ritual figures comes from the Salado branch of the Mogollon culture, which flourished in the mountains of southeastern Arizona between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Brilliantly colored and adorned with feathers and dyed cotton string, these objects once formed an altar as a place for communion with the life-giving spirits of the earth and sky. The large male figure, with his feather necklace and bold black and turquoise zigzag pattern, features sky symbolism. The smaller female figure is a more self-contained form, probably corresponding to the earth. Her ocher color may refer to maize and pollen, symbols of sustenance and fertility. The accompanying figures are a mountain lion (the chief predator in the region) and two serpents carved from cottonwood roots, which represent agents of communication with the earth and the cycle of fertility. Throwing sticks for rabbit hunting complete the ensemble. Testimony to the antiquity and endurance of the worship of earth and sky, and to the spiritual bonds between people and animals, these objects bear close resemblance to ritual figures and implements still seen and used among the diverse Pueblo people today.
— Entry, Essential Guide, 3rd ed. (Art Institute of Chicago, 2009), p. 21.