Before the Spanish Entrada
The art of embroidery that contemporary Pueblo people practice is one element in a sophisticated and extensive textile tradition reaching back into prehistoric times. The origin of embroidery and its use as a primary decorative technique remain obscure. The continued existence of this art form, however, seems assured.
Early Inhabitants of the Southwest
A variety of peoples have lived for thousands of years in the area that is commonly referred to as the Southwest, today encompassing states of Arizona and New Mexico, the southern parts of Utah and Colorado, and the northernmost regions of Mexico. The inhabitants lived in separate towns and villages and enjoyed extensive trade relations involving the spread of ideas and technologies as well as raw materials and finished goods. About 1,000 years ago, people in the Southwest were growing cotton and using the upright loom, items found earlier in Mesoamerica. By 1100 A.D., cotton was being cultivated in the Rio Grande Valley. Four hundred years later, Spanish explorers noticed cotton cultivation in an area stretching from El Paso, Texas, to San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico. The pueblos of Hopi and Acoma also grew quantities of cotton at that time.
Early Textile Traditions and Embroidery
The textile tradition of the Southwest has existed for thousands of years. Early weavers used a wide range of materials in making utilitarian and decorative items. However, because textile materials decay, the archaeological evidence is scarce. We do not know precisely when Southwestern people began to embroider, only that this art already existed when the Spanish conquistadores arrived in the sixteenth century.
School for Advanced Research