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Mimbres Lives and Landscapes


Edited by Margaret C. Nelson and Michelle Hegmon

People have called the mountains, rolling hills, wide valleys, and broad desert plains of southwestern New Mexico home for at least ten thousand years. When they began to farm a little more than two thousand years ago, they settled near the rich soils in the river floodplains. Then, around 900 CE, the people of this region burned all of their kivas and started gathering in large villages with small ritual spaces and open plazas. Between about 900 and 1100 CE, they also made the intricately painted geometric and figurative bowls in a style that is today called Mimbres, their best-known legacy. In the 1130s they stopped making this kind of pottery and drifted out of villages to more dispersed settlements.

These dramatic changes frame the story told in Mimbres Lives and Landscapes. The well-illustrated essays in this book offer the latest archaeological research to explain what we know and what questions still remain about the ancient people of this region. Beginning with an overview of the abrupt change in lifestyle that launched the distinctive Mimbres culture, the book explores the lives of men and women, their sustenance, the changing nature of leadership, and the possible meanings of their dramatic pottery designs.

2010. 156 pp., 19 color plates, 134 black-and-white illustrations, 2 maps, reading list, index, 8.5 x 11

Contributors: Roger Anyon, Darrell Creel, Patricia A. Gilman, Kelley Hays-Gilpin, Michelle Hegmon, Steven A. LeBlanc, Stephen H. Lekson, Paul E. Minnis, Marit K. Munson, Margaret C. Nelson, Ben A. Nelson, Steve Northup, Jonathan A. Sandor, Karen Gust Schollmeyer, Harry J. Shafer

Awards: 2011 New Mexico Book Award Winner, Anthropology/Archaeology category

Download an excerpt.

“In the 11th century, Native American people living in the Mimbres region of southwestern New Mexico painted spectacular geometric and figurative designs in black and white on pottery that captivates and inspires people around the world today. This book explores the physical, social, and ideological lives of the people of the Mimbres region through current and on-going archaeological research. Mimbres Lives and Landscapes is engaging, readable, and comprehensive. The authors, who are experts in the field, invite you to explore the lives of the people whose pottery we so admire and provoke you to think about the ways they constructed and changed their world. The book is a visual and intellectual delight.”
—Linda S. Cordell, National Academy of Sciences and American Academy of Arts and Sciences

“In this well-written and beautifully illustrated book, the latest results of archaeological research provide a cultural, environmental, and historical context for the remarkable achievements of the Classic Mimbres artists. Nelson and Hegmon are to be congratulated for bringing together leading researchers to produce a top-flight synthesis of current knowledge of the Mimbres tradition. This book will be of great value to archaeologists and non-archaeologists alike.”
—Bill Lipe, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, Washington State University

“The book is so appealing. Just layman enough to engage the regular person and packed with information to satisfy the more scholarly….Hurray for science!”
—Laurel Thornburg, Sonoita, AZ

“In this volume designed for the general reader, 15 leading Mimbres scholars present the latest information on these fascinating people, their lives, and their art … Mimbres Lives and Landscapes is a valuable addition to the literature of one of the ancient Southwest’s most intriguing cultures.”
—American Archaeology, Fall 2011, vol. 15, no. 3


  1. Mimbres Lives and Landscapes
    Margaret C. Nelson and Michelle Hegmon
  2. The Connected World of the Mimbres
    Ben A. Nelson
  3. Settling In
    Patricia A. Gilman
  4. Burning Down the House: Ritual Architecture of the Mimbres Late Pithouse Period
    Darrell Creel and Roger Anyon
  5. Mimbres Society: Another Way of Being
    Michelle Hegmon
  6. Mimbres Rituals and Worldview
    Harry J. Shafer
  7. Women and Men in Black and White
    Marit K. Munson and Kelley Hays-Gilpin
  8. Expressions in Black and White
    Michelle Hegmon
  9. The Painters of the Pots
    Steven A. LeBlanc
  10. Mimbres Potters’ Fields
    Paul E. Minnis and Jonathan Sandor
  11. Mimbres Hunting and the Importance of Deer
    Karen Gust Schollmeyer
  12. Mimbres, the Mystery?
    Margaret C. Nelson
  13. The Red Paint People
    Stephen H. Lekson
  14. Step Away from That Potsherd, Puleese! Creating a Culture of Conservation
    Steve Northup
There are no working papers for this book at the present time.