Investigating Form and Function

Using Evidence: You Be The Researcher

Modern Pueblo People Team Up With Researchers

When we look at objects from the past, we often have an incomplete understanding of the objects' use and significance, and we need to turn to other sources to find out more.

In this activity, we will observe the form and function of objects created by Ancestral Pueblo people. We will use the information we collect to discover an interesting aspect of life in Mesa Verde that Modern Pueblo people and researchers work together to discover. Only this time, YOU be the researcher!

Pueblo people have lived in and around the Southwestern part of what is now the United States of America for hundreds of years. Until about 1280AD, Ancestral Pueblo people, or the ancestors of Modern Pueblo people, lived in structures built on rock outcroppings in the Mesa Verde region and used creative farming and water management techniques that allowed their survival in this seemingly dry landscape.

Today, descendants of ancestral Pueblo people and scientists work together to understand the Mesa Verde region. They each contribute a valuable part to this work: Pueblo people share traditional knowledge, oral histories, and explanations of their deep connection to the region. Scientists and archaeologists use data from their studies to understand the complex changes in Pueblo society that occurred during the region's period of largest population from about 600AD to 1300AD.

As you look at the objects below, use the Anthropologist and Art Historian lenses from the last activity to examine specific aspects of their materials and design. Think of yourself as a researcher who is trying to find connections between these objects, and jot down what you observe on a form-function chart like the one you used to think about the objects in your life.

Here are some questions you might ask:

  • Can you identify any of the materials that were used to make these objects?
  • Are there any recognizable motifs or symbols on these objects?

Use the blue button to the bottom right of each object image to find more information about each object.

A necklace from Mesa Verde. Can you identify the materials used to make this necklace?
A bowl from Mesa Verde. Do you see any recognizable motifs or images?

Now, take a look at the observations you have jotted down. Do you notice any common threads between these objects?

An image showing many of the common motifs or pictures used on Mesa Verde pottery.

In your exploration of these images, did you notice that each one of these objects depicted or utilized part of the body or tracks of turkeys?

If not, that's okay! It took a skilled team of Anthropologists and researchers to analyze these artifacts and discover that Ancestral Puebloan people had turkeys. Wow!

Most archaeologists think the turkeys that the ancestral Pueblo people domesticated were most closely related to today’s Rio Grande wild turkey.  They live in brushy areas next to streams or rivers and in mesquite, pine, and scrub oak forests in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, New Mexico, Colorado, and Oregon.

Turkey droppings, gizzard stones, and remnants of turkey pens at archaeological sites show that ancient Pueblo people started keeping turkeys more than 2,000 years ago.  They used feathers on arrows and blankets or bones for tools or jewelry.  By 1100 AD overhunting had made large game scarce, so people started keeping more turkeys and began using them for food.

The teamwork and combined knowledge of Modern Pueblo and researchers in observing and learning from these objects allowed for this interesting discovery about ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde.

It's important to work together and to consult many sources when we look for clues about what life was like in the past!

Great job looking for clues! Now, move onto the next activity to take a look at how Technological change influence form and function.

Additional Resources