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Ben Bellorado and Chuck LaRue – Cotton Weaving in Mesoamerica and the Northern US Southwest: A Study of Loom Parts and Weaving Tools Across 1,000 Years and Two Continents

June 21 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST (Arizona)


Cotton weaving traditions have tied the US Southwest with Mesoamerica for over a millennium. Archaeologists have traced the spread of cotton-weaving and backstrap-loom technologies from Mesoamerica, through the greater Southwest, and onto the northern Colorado Plateau in a journey that took centuries. The earliest evidence of backstrap loom-woven, cotton textiles in the northern Southwest appears in Ancestral Pueblo sites at about A.D. 900 and shows that backstrap-loom technology changed little during its spread northward, though it remained a rare practice until around A.D. 1100. During the Cedar Mesa Perishables Project and Cedar Mesa Building Murals Project, we analyzed perishable collections of weaving tools and loom parts from ancient pueblos and cliff-dwellings in the greater Cedar Mesa area. Our data show that the cotton textile industry burgeoned across northeastern Arizona and southeastern Utah between A.D. 1150 and 1300. In March of 2019, we took part in the first Traditional Technologies seminar in Oaxaca, Mexico. This program was sponsored by the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society and brought Pueblo weavers, archaeologists, anthropologists, and a biologist to communities of indigenous backstrap-loom weavers throughout rural Oaxaca. Our experiences with both Puebloan and Oaxacan weavers helped provided an important interpretative framework for our analyses of the archaeological remains of weaving tools from the Southwest. In this presentation, we discuss our experiences in Oaxaca and how the insights we gained from working with indigenous Puebloan and Oaxacan weavers enriched our interpretations of developments in weaving technology in the ancient northern US Southwest.


Ben Bellorado

Ben Bellorado, Ph.D. is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona’s School of Anthropology and has been a professional archaeologist and anthropologist in the greater Southwest for over 20 years. His research has focused on Ancestral Pueblo cultural landscapes in southeastern Utah and the greater Four Corners area. He has conducted extensive fieldwork, laboratory studies, and collections analysis. His specialties include dendrochronology, building murals, rock art, pottery analysis, prehispanic clothing practices, and ancient agricultural strategies. Dr. Bellorado has also conducted extensive collections research at many of the nation’s premier museums and curation facilities where he has documented Ancestral Pueblo woven sandals and weaving tools. He is the Laboratory Manager at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.

Chuck LaRue

Chuck LaRue is a wildlife biologist and naturalist who has studied birds on the Colorado Plateau and other areas of the Southwest for 35 years. He has conducted bird inventories and surveys for Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Grand Canyon National Park, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, and northern Black Mesa. He also assisted in a prey-habits study that identified bird feather remains from Peregrine Falcon nest sites throughout Arizona. He has recently developed an interest in Ancestral Puebloan technologies and lifeways on the Colorado Plateau. Mr. LaRue is a crew member of the Cedar Mesa Perishables Project, where he is working with archaeologists and Native American weavers to identify and document plant and animal remains in ancient, perishable materials in museum collections.

Suggested Readings

Crabtree, Stefani A., and Benjamin A. Bellorado 
2016  Using Cross-Media Approaches to Understand an Invisible Industry: How Cotton Production Influenced Pottery Designs and Kiva Murals in Cedar Mesa. Kiva 82(2):174–200. 
Curtis, Wayne 
2017  Reexcavating the Collections. American Archaeology 21(1):12–19. 
Kent, Kate Peck 
1983  Prehistoric Textiles of the Southwest. 1st ed. Southwest Indian arts series. School of American Research, Santa Fe, N.M. 


June 21
7:00 pm - 8:30 pm MST
Event Category:


Paul Minnis