Untitled Cochiti Figurine, ca. 1890s
natural pigments and clay
Gift of the Estate of Rick Dillingham, 1994. Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology,
Commercial ventures and cultural change followed the railroads through New Mexico during the 1880s. Traders bought obsolete utilitarian items and religious paraphernalia from Native Peoples. They transformed these objects into commodities sold to anthropologists and energetically supplied souvenirs to travelers seeking mementos of Native life.
At first the traders simply resold the utilitarian objects that had been replaced by pails, frying pans, and Dutch ovens. But soon the traders encouraged the local artists to invent items specifically for travelers. One popular example came from Cochiti Pueblo where potters produced figurative ceramic sculptures. Often these sculptures focused on subjects that the potters thought might interest travelers, such as the human oddities found at sideshows and circuses.