Sherds from Bandelier National Monument

Objects: 1526, 1527, 1528
JIAAW, Old Department Collection

Having just celebrated Indigenous People’s Day (Oct 12), we wanted to take a look at objects 1526, 1527, and 1528 – sherds that bring up important discussions about Native American history, representation, survival, and continuance. While most objects in the JIAAW collection are Mediterranean in origin, these sherds were excavated from Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico, a site that has significant ties to the Ancestral Pueblo people. Although it is named after a 19th-century anthropologist, Bandelier National Monument focuses much of its educational and promotional activities on sharing the history and lifeways of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Its website perpetuates the common narrative that the Ancestral Pueblo people suddenly disappeared in the late 13th century AD and that Bandelier is a place where one can step back into the past and explore ancient ruins. This particular telling of history situates the Ancestral Pueblo people completely in the past, despite the survival and existence of numerous Pueblo tribes today. A New York Times article offers an alternative view that explains that the Ancestral Puebloans did not vanish without a trace but, rather, their empire shrank and split off into the tribes that we see today, possibly as a result of deforestation, soil erosion, conflict with other tribes, drought, or a combination of these factors. 

Today, there are 19 federally recognized Pueblo tribes in New Mexico. The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, an organization that was established to celebrate Pueblo heritage through archives, exhibits, programs, and writing, puts Pueblo continuance at the center of their work. The mission of the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, which is “To preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture, and to advance understanding by presenting with dignity and respect the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people of New Mexico,” directly responds to the narrative that places like Bandelier National Monument construct about indigenous peoples. It is important to recognize the stories attached to places like Bandelier, and even archaeological findings like these three sherds, and how they impact our understanding of Native American history and survival. 

-Jinette Jimenez ‘21, JIAAW Records and Collections Assistant

Check out the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Indigenous Peoples’ Day programming:

Explore the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center website:

Read the New York Times article:

Visit Brown’s Native American and Indigenous Studies Initiative website:

Browse the collection of the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology to see more of the indigenous arts of the Americas, Africa, Southeast Asia, and other parts of the world: