Benjamin A. Bellorado – “The Ties that Bind: The Social and Religious Context of Building Murals in the Western Mesa Verde Region”
In the western Mesa Verde region, ancestral Pueblo peoples used textiles as a powerful means of signaling their social and religious identities within and between communities. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries they also decorated their homes, pottery, and surrounding cliff walls with imagery of ornately woven yucca and cotton textiles like sandals, blankets, and sashes that were likely used in rituals. In a very real way these people clothed their homes and pottery with expressions of their social and religious identities. While the majority of the actual textiles have disappeared from the archaeological record due to the ravages of time and looting, a record of the presence of this industry remains painted and scratched into the cliff faces and building walls of archaeological sites in this area. This record indicates that people were actively manufacturing and using complex woven textile technologies and used worn textiles (and their images) as ways of signaling their participation in distinct social networks who shared cosmologies.
Tree-ring dating of intact wooden construction beams from well preserved kivas and habitation rooms with building murals showing textiles, provides a means of reconstructing networks of shared styles of building murals and textiles through time and across space. Combined with data on pottery manufacture and circulation patterns, a cross-media approach is used to reconstruct the distributions of overlaying communities of weavers, potters, builders, and rock art and mural artists in the region that contributed to the complex ways that peoples signaled their religious and social identities through time.