Turquoise, Water, Sky: The Stone and Its Meaning
April 13, 2014 through May 2, 2016
Turquoise-Color and Meaning
Color and Meaning
While the exact meaning of turquoise differs for the various Native peoples in the region, it symbolizes aspects of a good life for all of them. For Pueblo groups, blue/green means water, sky, health and plenty. Josephine Humetewa is wearing three necklaces, including a Zuni-made squash blossom (Cat# 56591/12, 14” by 10”) and a Pueblo bead necklace made of turquoise and shell (Cat# 50262/12, 11.5” by 9”). Bracelets are all Navajo-made (Cats # 44186/12, 38138/12, 10610/12, and 10229/12; each approximately 3 inches wide), except for the multiple row bracelet (Cat# 56786/12, 2.5” by 1.75”), which is Zuni in origin. Likewise the rings are Pueblo- (Cat # 57103/12), Zuni (Cat # 36071/12), or Navajo-made (Cats # 40661/12, 57290/12, 40659/12, 10146/12) and range from one to two inches long. Her pin (Cat # 48140/12) is Zuni needlepoint and 1.5 inches long and wide.
Young Man with Bow Guards (Ketoh)
The Navajo (Diné) and Hopi developed an arm guard to provide protection while shooting an arrow from a bow called a ketoh. It is often sports a central motif, decorated with silver and turquoise. While functional they are normally personal and ritual adornment.
Turquoise, Water, Sky: The Stone and Its Meaning highlights the Museum’s extensive collection of Southwestern turquoise jewelry and presents all aspects of the stone, from geology, mining and history, to questions of authenticity and value.
People in the Southwest have used turquoise for jewelry and ceremonial purposes and traded valuable stones both within and outside the region for over a thousand years. Turquoise, Water, Sky presents hundreds of necklaces, bracelets, belts, rings, earrings, silver boxes and other objects illustrating how the stone was used and its deep significance to the people of the region. This comprehensive consideration of the stone runs through May 2, 2016.
To the Native American it is the turquoise color that carries all the power and references to sky, water, birth, health. The stone does not necessarily have to be used for ritual or decoration. These pieces dating from 800-1200AD are wood painted to resemble turquoise. Given the scarcity of turquoise and the difficulty mining the fragile stone with primitive tools these three pieces are not fake in the eyes of a Native American.