Pottery, Mural and Rock Art: Considerations from the Gallina Region and beyond

By: Georgina Taylor


Gallina murals come in two forms; geometric and figurative. Frequent geometric patterns that appear are vertical paneling, banded lines, and pennant-like designs. These geometric motifs are often paired with floral figures, such as sunflowers, spruce trees and potentially yucca. The aim of my research is to look for similarities in stylistic elements between murals, ceramics and rock art, as this could shed light on the ways the Gallina interpreted their worlds, and the shared design characteristics across their various mediums; whether that’s crafting pots or decorating houses.

Stylistic similarities between one of the murals at the Cerrito site and the pottery vessel on display at Ghost Ranch. We were having a gander around the Gallina section there when I came across this pot. I double took.

A visit to the Ghost Ranch museum, Abiquiu, revealed the similarities in design choices across walls and pots. Aside from a few minor differences, the composition, choice and shape of elements in the vessel below and the murals are strikingly similar (fig. 1). This vessel is from Rattlesnake Ridge and the similar mural designs are from Cerritos, which could show a high-resolution example of a connection between the sites. This vessel is not documented in prior Gallina literature, and without a visit to Ghost Ranch, it could have never appeared in my research.

Another interesting motif present in Gallina murals across at least three sites is the concentric circle (fig.2). Going on a weekend excursion revealed that the concentric circle is also present at Chaco Canyon, as seen on a stroll between Chetro Ketl and Pueblo Bonito. However, this rock art also has a zoomorphic figure built up from the concentric design, meaning it’s not the mirror image of those seen in the Gallina Region. Nonetheless, the same raw design elements are still there, which presents an interesting comparison between designs in the Gallina region and at Chaco. Although, you could say that the concentric circle is an innate human design motif, for example a phosphene, which is a light pattern originated within the eye and brain (think spirals, lattices, waves etc.). Therefore, it would make sense that these patterns appear in rock art designs in multiple places, and spiral designs have been drawn by other local indigenous groups in the region.

Examples of the concentric circle design at Gallina sites (top left, top right, and bottom right), and at Chaco Canyon (bottom left). This design has been recorded at the Evans site, Rattlesnake Ridge as painted artwork, and as a rock engraving at an unnamed Gallina site, kindly made known to me by one of the wildland fire team at the Cuba Ranger District.

Being present in the Southwest on the GLOH project has added a whole new suite of knowledge to my research external to academic literature, involving trips to the sites and museum themselves, and by contacting and conversing with many helpful people along the way.




Bellorado, B. A. (2017). The Context, Dating, and Role of Painted Building Murals in Gallina Society. Kiva83(4), 494-514.

Hibben, F. C. (1939). The Gallina Culture of North Central New Mexico. Unpublished Dissertation. Havard University, Cambridge.

Lange, C. (1956). The Evans site and the archaeology of the Gallina region, New Mexico. El Palacio, 63, 72-92.

Ortman, S. G. (2000). Conceptual metaphor in the archaeological record: methods and an example from the American Southwest. American antiquity65(4), 613-645.

Reichel-Dolmatoff, G. (1978). Drug-induced optical sensations and their relationship to applied art among some Colombian Indians.


One thought on “Pottery, Mural and Rock Art: Considerations from the Gallina Region and beyond”

  1. Short and informative. I found this caption below the first set of photos hard to understand; “We were having a gander around the Gallina section there when I came across this pot. I double took.”
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

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