Early history of Hopi pottery


Last Updated: 20 years

The Hopi call their ancestors, Hisatsinom, “People of Long Ago.” The public and most anthropologists refer to these people as the “Anasazi,” a word that has become popular in the general literature.

Early Hisatsinom are called the Basketmaker people. The Basketmakers were a hunting and gathering people who became increasingly sedentary as their reliance on agriculture increased. As early as A.D. 700, the Basketmaker people began making plain pottery.


Increased corn-based agriculture and increased occupation of multi-roomed pueblo dwellings was accompanied by an increase in the quantity and variety of pottery manufactured by these people.

From Pueblo I through early Pueblo III (A.D. 800 to 1300), pottery with black painted designs on white slip was being made everywhere in the Pueblo world. Two of the early black on white styles from the Hopi mesas were Kana-a and Black Mesa.

These were followed in the Pueblo II era by Dogoszhi and Sosi. Later styles that were made in early Pueblo III were Flagstaff, Tusayan, and Kayenta. Each has its own distinctive and identifiable design motif.

Four red ware traditions were also developed at this time. These designs were usually black, though sometimes white, on a background of red or orange slip. These were San Juan Red Ware, Tsegi Orange Ware, White Mountain Red Ware, and Show Low Red Ware.

In the Pueblo III period (about 1300), polychromes first appeared. Pueblo potters began to express a wide variety of colors, design styles, and vessel forms. The culmination of the Hopi polychromes was Sikyatki Polychrome, which flourished from A.D. 1400 to 1600.

Later polychrome in the Hopi area included Payupki, Walpi, Polacca, and San Bernardo types. In the late 1800s, outsiders became interested in Hopi pottery, and a revival in pottery production was sparked by the work of Nampeyo and other First Mesa potters. They reproduced the beautiful Sikyatki Polychrome styles and handed down their skills. Most contemporary pottery is made on First Mesa.