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Ritual Cache

Carved ceremonial objects colored with orange and blue of a man, woman, snake, curved sticks, and cougar.
Public Domain

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  • Carved ceremonial objects colored with orange and blue of a man, woman, snake, curved sticks, and cougar.




Salado branch of the Mogollon
New Mexico, United States

About this artwork

Discovered wrapped and hidden in a remote, dry cave, this cache of ritual figures comes from the Salado culture, which flourished in the mountains of southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Brilliantly colored and adorned with flicker feathers and dyed cotton string, these effigies once formed an altar as agents 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 likely refers 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), representing agents of communication with the earth and the seasonal cycle of fertility. Curved wooden 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 used today among the diverse Pueblo peoples.


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Arts of the Americas




Ritual Cache


New Mexico (Object made in)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



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.)

Credit Line

Major Acquisitions Centennial Endowment

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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