Textiles And Other Organic Artifacts – Tonto National Monument

“The Salado were highly accomplished weavers. Their closely-woven cotton fabric rivals modern cloth made by machines; the newly arrived Spanish mistook this cloth for silk.  The earliest known cultivated cotton (Gossypium hopi) in the Tonto Basin was at the Eagle Ridge site around 250 CE (Common Era). People around Tonto Creek began trading cotton up to the Colorado Plateau around 1100 CE, creating a surge in textile production. About the time the Tonto National Monument cliff dwellings were built in 1300 CE, Tonto Basin became one of the leading producers of cotton in the Southwest. Salado textile designs woven by Hopi and Zuni for ceremonial use tie modern pueblo people to the ancient people of the cliff dwellings.

The dry environment of the caves protected these rare textiles for centuries. Cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument have produced one of the most important collections of textiles from the ancient Southwest.” ~National Park Service (NPS)

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“Worn out cotton textiles were torn up and recycled into rag-weft cloth. The resulting cloth was likely used for warm soft blankets.” ~NPS

“This is a piece of a tie or belt. The designs and material suggest an ornamental use.” ~NPS

“The pattern in this piece of cloth was created by wrapping wefts (the horizontal elements) around warps (the vertical elements) to make small openings. These openings were then laid out in patterns to make geometric designs. It is a complicated weaving process called weft-wrap open work.” ~NPS

“This portion of a tumpline (a strap that passes around the forehead for carrying heavy loads on one’s back) exemplifies the bright dyes employed by Salado weavers.”~NPS

“Notice the intricate pattern on this piece of textile. Textiles were embellished with decorative techniques both during and after weaving.” ~NPS

“Plain weaves were woven on a loom in a very simple “one over, one under” pattern. Most of the cotton cloth at Tonto is undyed plain weave. Although it sounds simple, it is a labor intensive task.”~NPS

“Weaving was not confined to cotton alone. The Salado also made sandals; this one was woven from agave fiber.” ~NPS

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This original sandal is made of woven yucca fibers.

These modern replica sandals, based on the original design above, are also made of yucca fibers.

Ceramic vessels, like jars and bowls, often had rounded bottoms, which could tip over easily (especially when the vessel was full). Placing the vessel on this “pot rest”, woven from yucca fibers, would keep it from tipping over.

The Salado grew gourds for use as tools, as well as food. Cut a hole in the top, and you had a water vessel; cut it in half, as in this example, and you had a dipper/ladle. This is a modern replica; identical excavated versions are too fragile to handle for making 3D models.

This is a modern replica of a “fire drill”, used to create fires. The Salado would rapidly spin a round wooden drill in the holes, either by hand or using a bow with the cord wrapped around the drill. The heat of friction would generate embers that would drop through the grooves in front onto highly flammable tinder. Blowing on the ember/tinder would usually be enough to get a fire started.