Color in the Ancestral Pueblo Southwest

Color is an important part of peoples' lives; it carries meaning and makes things beautiful, and it communicates ideas and evokes emotions. So why do we tend to think of the past as if it were in black and white? In this talk, Marit questions what we mean by color and how we can identify color choices in the past, delving into the surprisingly complicated history of color thinking and the technologies of paints and dyes. Marit then draws on museum collections and archaeological reports to show how ancestral Pueblo people used color in all parts of their lives: to decorate pottery, to paint on cliff faces and the walls of rooms, to adorn fabric, and to create brilliant ornaments. This research shows that, regardless of medium, ancestral Pueblo color choices varied widely through time and space; rather than following a linear trajectory from simple to complex, the use of color ebbed and flowed, with different individuals and communities using color—and relating to colorful materials—in deeply meaningful ways.