Arizona State University has a lot of cool things going on throughout the year. Near the start of the Fall, in a small room in the lobby of a large science hall, they brought out a collection of Hohokam Pottery and explained its importance in history.
The amount of pottery produced in the region was massive, with many of the tradesmen relying on the skill of the few to produce pottery for their everyday needs. The pots were made with rocks rich with a substance called mica, which gave the pots a wonderful glittery appearance. The rocks–known as schist–has thing flakes that cause it to glitter in the light and can be found all throughout the valley. The pots tended to have a red slip layer on the outside, giving the pots their distinct red color. They achieved the red by finding clay rich in calcium carbonate. If cooked too hot, the calcium carbonate would decompose into lime and flake off the pot. To stop this, they found clay that was also rich in salt, which raised the temperature at which the calcium carbonate would decompose. There were also pots made to look lighter by decorating the outside with small grooves and filled them with color. Eventually, they mastered making lighter hues for a wash that lightened the background colors.
The Importance of Women
Remember the tradesmen that people relied on? They were actually women! Women were the main producers of pottery in the region and many were renowned for their prowess. This also afforded them a greater status in society overall. Since what we know of the Hohokam points to the society being non-stratified, many believe that women were highly involved in the economic structure of the area.
It was fascinating to see all of the pots and see just how involved women were in this society. It’s nice to know that the local universities and museums have all of this knowledge on display for everyone to enjoy!