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Field Guide Series – Indian Art & Legends of the Southwest

by | Jan 10, 2023

Gain fundamental, practical knowledge of your surroundings  

“Small but Mighty” may be the best way to describe our new Easy Field Guides, reviewed by our own Yvonne Prater, Director of Operations. Each book is fully illustrated, and filled with a plethora of interesting facts that are easy to understand to help answer the thoughtful question, “What is that?”

If you missed them, you can read Yvonne’s first four Field Guide reviews here. This is the fifth guide in the series and is titled “Indian Art & Legends of the Southwest”.


Ancient Art

This Easy Field Guide is filled with art images and legends by the Mimbres Indians, a small group of the Mogollon culture who lived in the Southwest about 1,000 years ago. These images were painted on the insides of ceramic bowls and are the best evidence remaining of Southwest Indian mythology and culture. Their paintings are virtual time capsules, windows to peek through into the legends of prehistory.

I have included a couple of images in this article that I think are very interesting. One is the lizard head around the perimeter of a bowl. In the creation legend, man evolved from the lizard. The lizard head stylized into a diamond shaped design with circular eyes is often seen in both petroglyphs and bowl paintings.


The other image shown here is the great horned toad which is common in the desert. These images were often carved into rock surfaces and frequently appear in the ceramics of the Hohokam Indians, one group of the very early residents in the Lower Verde Valley.


Buried with the Dead

The painted bowls depicted in this guide are well preserved because they were buried with the dead. The Mimbres Indians placed a bowl over the face of the deceased and carefully chipped a small hole in the bottom of the bowl. This “kill hole”, as it is called, is visible in several of the examples shown in this guide. The ritual was thought to free the spirit of the bowl to travel with the deceased to the next world.

The illustrations in this guide are accurate reproductions, while the interpretations are researched conjecture.

Visit Riverbanks Gift Shop

There is great pleasure to be had from gaining fundamental, practical knowledge of your surroundings. I hope you enjoy and anticipate each month the selected topics in this series. These guides are published by American Traveler Press and can be found in the River of Time gift shop, Riverbanks. We are open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.