Potter Ignacia Duran (1921–2011) crafted ceramic vessels and figurines with local clays that she dug from hills near her home in Tesuque Pueblo in northern New Mexico. Rich in mica minerals, the clay gives this unglazed “rain god” figurine its distinctive sheen. Rain gods were not part of ancient Tesuque beliefs. Following the arrival of the railroad in the late 1880s, Tesuque artists began crafting a variety of small ceramic figurines to sell to curio dealers who catered to the growing numbers of visitors to the region. Once dismissed as tourist art, their innovation is now more than 130 years old and part of an enduring artistic tradition that Duran learned from her mother. Museum curator Richard I. Ford, a specialist in New Mexican Puebloan cultures, acquired two rain god figurines from Duran and donated them to the Museum in 2003.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.