2012-22 Matsaki Polychrome Bowl with Avian Motif

Object ID:


3.4375” h X 8.1875” w

Between about 1475 CE and 1680 CE the Zuni people produced “Matsaki” pottery, including this bowl.

This pottery type was roughly contemporaneous with monochromatic Hopi Jeddito ware (see 1994-15 and 1997-05 in this collection) and is generally categorized as derived from Jeddito’s polychromatic variation, Sikyatki ware (see shards 2012-11a & b). Since a relatively intact Sikyatki bowl is beyond the means of this collection, this Matsaki bowl is about as close as I can get.

Bowl 2012-22 is somewhat deep with a slightly incurved rim and internal lip. Judging from the clay revealed by chipping, the body is formed from rather rough-textured clay mixed with larger pieces of pinkish temper.

I believe the inside surface has been slipped with a somewhat smoother slip that may have also been applied to the exterior. I’m just not sure.

The exterior of the bowl is undecorated. About an inch below the interior rim, a single thick black line encircles the bowl. The interior of the bowl is dominated by a dart-shaped element with a short, decorated shaft. From one corner of the shaft emerge two red lines that spread out until they touch or come close to touching the black framing line. From the other corner of the shaft emerge two black lines that also spread out to touch the framing line. The result is to divide most of the interior surface of the bowl into three wedge-shaped segments. One segment lacks interior design except for a series of small lobes drawn on the lower side of the framing line. The second segment contains the polychromatic “dart image.” The final segment is dominated by a thick red triangle (with an unpainted triangular center) and three lines—one of them with u-shaped indentions. The first segment covers about 36% of the bowls interior, the second about 37% and the final segment about 21% The remaining few percent of area are accounted for by the width of the “dart” shaft.

I do not understand the iconography of this bowl beyond the general comment that the dart-shaped element seems to represent a collection of feathers and I assume that such feathers are related to prayers for blessings, particularly rain. The Cooke Collection (Wade and Cooke, 2012:64-65) contains a Sikyatki bowl with a similar element which Ed Wade interprets as a “tiponi, surmounted by prayer feathers (which) represents the accumulated presence and prayers of a clan.” It is my understanding that tiponi are particular prayer feather bundles that are often attached to the top of a ladder providing entrance to an underground kiva and indicating that the clan leaders are in residence and doing sacred work. Translated into an Anglo allusion, the tiponi are similar to the family crest of a Scottish clan.

Purchase History:
Purchased on 11/4/12 on eBay from “Mike” of Forestville, CA. [Receipt on file.] Mike had purchased the bowl from Allard Auctions on 3/3/12 for substantially more than the eBay sale price. He writes: “The bowl comes from a collection auctioned off in southern California…. It [has] about 10 percent restoration. It was sold to me as having no restoration on the bottom. It has now been shown to me.”