Arizona Public Radio | Your Source for NPR News
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
KNAU's main phone line is experiencing technical difficulties. Click here to contact members of our team directly.

Earth Notes: Hopi Yellow-ware

A yellow bowl with black geometric patterns
American Southwest Virtual Museum
Jeddito Yellow Ware is a type of pottery that was made exclusively at the Hopi Mesas in northern Arizona and widely traded throughout the Southwest.

In the summer of 1963, a cache of five intact pottery jars and bowls was discovered in what is now Canyonlands National Park in Utah. The discovery is unique because the pottery consists entirely of a type known as Hopi Yellow-wares, which is only made on the Hopi Mesas in northeastern Arizona, 200 miles away.

This style was developed in the 13th century. The pots are fired with coal dug from local deposits. This results in hotter firing temperatures, creating vibrant yellow, orange, and red hues in the finished clay. Their shapes include ladles, bowls, and jars decorated with abstract birds, feathers, and geometric patterns painted in red, black, and white pigments.

Archaeologists who studied the Canyonlands cache believe the pottery was made between the 14th and 16th centuries. They also have some theories on how these particular ceramics ended up so far from the Hopi mesas.

One idea is the pottery was traded from Hopi, and later stashed where it was found. But, finding a set of intact Yellow-ware vessels is rare, and indicates this cache may have had a more specific purpose. Curiously, one of the jars was filled with rock salt.

Another theory says the cache is evidence of a ceremonial pilgrimage, undertaken by a group of Hopi people not long after the pottery was made. This centuries-old tradition is meant to honor the history of Hopi culture, and often includes whole pottery vessels as offerings. Some Hopis believe this is how the cache made its way to Utah, carried by descendants on a spiritual journey, back into the lands of the ancestors.

This Earth Note was written by Lyle Balenquah and produced by KNAU and the Sustainable Communities Program at Northern Arizona University.

Lyle Balenquah, Hopi, is a member of the Greasewood Clan from the Village of Paaqavi ("Reed Springs Place") on Third Mesa, located in northeastern Arizona. He currently works as an archaeologist, as well as a river and hiking guide across the Four Corners region. Through his work he advocates for the protection and preservation of ancestral landscapes, combining his professional training with personal experiences and insights about Hopi culture and history.
Related Content
  • At dusk on summer nights, white-lined sphinx moths flutter like hummingbirds around flowers of datura and evening primrose. Their dark wings bear light bands, and the underwings are cotton-candy pink. They hover above a flower only long enough to dip their long hollow tongues deep into the sugar-rich nectar stores. Then they fly off to another source, exhibiting some of the fastest flying speeds in the lepidopteran world.
  • Members of the Hopi and Zuni tribes are working alongside archaeologists within the Bears Ears National Monument to preserve masonry structures built by their ancestors hundreds of years ago. Uniquely, they are using methods and materials that reflect traditional perspectives about these places.
  • Most people think of a drought as a long, slow-moving disaster. But there is a growing number of “flash droughts” around the world. Like flash floods, these are short, intense events that arrive without warning. Flash droughts can develop in less than week and bring intense heat and dryness.
  • The space beneath solar panels is often thought to be bare, wasted ground. But what if it could be used to grow crops and graze livestock? That’s the idea behind agrivoltaics.