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Mata Ortiz Olla, Casas Grande Style Mexican Pottery

Item number: 4252

This Mata Ortiz pottery olla--or jar--has designs based on the excavated pottery of the pre-Hispanic town of Paquimé, home of the Casas Grande people, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It's a large, older pot, measuring 8 1/2 inches tall, 8 inches across the belly and 4 1/2 inches across the mouth. Weighing 2 pounds 5 ounces, it's in excellent condition, with no cracks or chips and just a few paint flakes (the only noticeable one is shown in photograph #3).

The bottom of the jar is fire-darkened, which is the reason that the pot has an equator line, sometimes called the transition line (shown in photograph #2); if the pot was to be placed in the fire for cooking, then the bottom was not painted. The hand painted designs on this pot are repeated geometrics in black and red on the smoothed clay, our favorite being the eye with its eyebrow. The interior was partly smoothed but is still rough and obviously handmade.

After the town of Paquimé, with its some 2000 adobe rooms, was burned around 1340, the art of creating this pottery disappeared for centuries. It was not until the archaeologist Charles Di Peso excavated almost half the site in the 1950’s and 1960’s that the pottery sherds that were found resulted in a renewed interest in pottery making in the nearby town of Mata Ortiz. Pottery in a more modern style has also been made in Mata Ortiz, but this pot is in the traditional, ancient Casas Grande style. This handsome olla is an excellent addition to a collection and a fine decorative piece. 

PYH 4252