The flower world in material culture: An iconographic complex in the southwest and Mesoamerica

Kelley Hays-Gilpin, Jane H. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Scopus citations


Uto-Aztecan peoples of Mesoamerica and the U.S. Southwest, together with neighboring Pueblo and Mayan groups, share a system of verbal imagery evoking a flowery spirit world. This study traces Flower World imagery in visual arts in the prehistoric Southwest and explores possible contexts and chronology for visual expressions of the Flower World and possible links to Mesoamerica. Flower World imagery appears most coherently in the twelfth century, in Mimbres mortuary ceramics and painted wooden ritual regalia from the Mimbres and Chaco Canyon areas, in thirteenth-century Kayenta Anasazi wooden ritual regalia, and in fifteenth-century Hopi and Rio Grande kiva murals. We argue that Flower World imagery played an important role in the emergence of the Puebloan Kachina religion and the broader iconographic complex which Crown terms the "Southwest Regional Cult." Flower imagery may represent recruitment of a female symbol into an increasingly formal male-dominated ritual system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-37
Number of pages37
JournalJournal of Anthropological Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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