I visited the Arizona State Museum pottery wing today, hoping I could see the kind of squash-blossom pattern on Pueblo pottery that Leslie Marmon Silko writes about in “Landscape, History, and the Pueblo Imagination.” No luck so far.
Then I wandered into the gift shop and found a goodly array of local pottery, mostly from the Hopi nation. After the shop dude chewed my ear off about Hopi pottery, I asked him if he had ever seen the squash-blossom pattern on pottery from Acoma or Laguna. He ran into the back room to fetch his boss, who pointed me to the Dine (Navajo) squash-blossom necklace on display behind me. It looked something like this:
This is not the pattern Silko is talking about. It is, however, interesting in its own right. The boss described his theory of what this pattern really is: an Indian adaptation of an amulet that hung on the forehead of conquistador-horses to ward off the evil eye. The flowers are not squash blossoms, but pomegranate blossoms, indicating the Arabic influence on Iberia. And the central pendant is the charm itself.
Now, in a strict scholarly sense, I can’t vet this account of the necklace. However, the pendant really does resemble a Mediterranean-style anti-Evil Eye charm, and the color of the lapis lazuli echoes, in local materials, the blues of the traditional amulet.
If this theory is true, it would mean that the “squash-blossom” necklace made in Arizona is the result of a Dine-Spanish-Arabic-Italian/Turkish/Greek odyssey from the borderlands of Eurasia to the borderlands of Mexamerica.
That’s a lot of borderlands, is all I’m sayin’.