A red clay was used to make this water jar. Most Zia jars are made of a deep grey clay, from which a beautiful cream color emerges when a white slip is applied and burnished, then fired outdoors.

Unlike most deer designs seen on pottery from Acoma and Zuni Pueblos, this fanciful depiction of a deer among a forest of wildflowers does not have a heartline, which is represented by an arrow from the mouth of the deer to the center of its body.

The deterioration of paint along the rim of the mouth indicates handling and use as a vessel for gathering water from a naturally formed cistern or from the river that runs just below Zia Pueblo.

The heart-shaped petals of the large wildflowers are unusual for Zia pottery as most depictions of flowers are subtle in form. The maker may have been commemorating a prayer or a story about rain and how the earth reacts when nourished with moisture, providing beauty and vegetation for wildlife.

A red clay was used to make this water jar. Most Zia jars are made of a deep grey clay, from which a beautiful cream color emerges when a white slip is applied and burnished, then fired outdoors.

Storage jars made among the northern Pueblos are typically this size and form, used to store large quantities of foods including dried corn, cornmeal, dried wild game, breads, and other foods. The scale of this jar represents the need to safely store food that will last for long periods of time, to sustain an extended family unit residing in one home.

Symbols of water, rain, clouds, and lightning are represented in the two bands of designs on this jar. The lower band interestingly transitions from one design sequence to another, likely the maker’s attempt to mimic the transition of cloud formations across the open sky.

The design on the body of the jar features clouds with “eyes” and various forms of rain. This beautiful depiction of the sky above the earth—represented in the wide red band at the base—is a prayer for moisture, which is essential to survival in the arid Southwest.

The “mouth” of the jar is formed with a subtle “lip” that allows for the application of a protective cover, usually, a piece of buckskin or other hide secured with deer sinew string or yucca plant fiber cord.

The deep red band at the base symbolizes the earth, with the two sections of design depicting the skies above.

This upper band of orange and red clouds connected with rain “streamers” is a beautiful representation of clouds forming in the upper atmosphere.

Represented in this complex design, in deep black paint, is the sky above, featuring an interconnected series of clouds with “eyes” encircling fields of corn and squash represented by checkerboard patterns.

The maker of this jar built the form using large coils of clay. This process is time-consuming and requires periods of time for drying before another coil is added, to avoid collapse.

The black paint is of high quality as it is consistent throughout the design. The maker must have been a master potter who took time to carefully process the large amount of paint and clay required to create this magnificent jar.

One distinctive feature of Hopi pottery is the cream color, sometimes a light shade of peach, that is achieved during the firing process.

The rain and lightning design along the upper rim of the jar is representative of ancestral Pueblo pottery designs. Variations of this design can also be found on other Pueblo pottery.

The Hopi rainbird design and geometrical ancestral Pueblo designs alternate on the bottom half of the jar. You can see the head of the bird and tail and wing feathers represented in an abstract form.

The deteriorated rim on this jar testifies to years of use and handling by generations of women in the household.

Deterioration from handling along the mouth of the jar and its base indicates likely daily use for gathering water from nearby natural springs and the Zuni River. Oftentimes, the quality of water also contributes to the wear of water jars, including flaking of paint and white slip and flaking of clay, which causes cracking.

A unique characteristic of Zuni polychrome wares is the application of black pigment paint on the base and interior rim of the mouth. Other similar Pueblo pottery forms feature either red or orange paint.

Some Zuni tribal members interpret the design on this water jar as representing a bat hanging upside down. The figure is surrounded by designs signifying rain and clouds.

The maker of this jar must have been a master potter as the symmetry and precision of design application are near perfect. The slight indentation where the body meets the neck of the jar is also evidence of skilled pottery-making among western Pueblos.