By Brenda Warneka


Did you know the Mojave Indians are well known for their traditional clay figurines in the shape of humans and animals? The earliest clay doll documented is 1854 when the Whipple expedition went through the tristate area. The dolls appear to have been rare at that time, but they became popular items fashioned by the Mojave to sell to tourists once the railroad came to Needles in 1883. The Indians would set up displays on the train platform to sell to those who were intrigued by these tiny pottery figures. The late Rick Dillingham, a collector and book author who became enamored with the dolls, left his large collection to the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe.




The lovely lady shown here is part of the Dillingham collection of Mojave ceramics at the Indian Arts Research Center, School of American Research, Santé Fe, New Mexico. Professor of art history Jill Leslie Furst describes this doll as wearing “a variation of the feminine 'bridle' face paint, named for the crossed X's under the eyes that resemble the crossed straps on elaborate horse gear. The style is called "hotahpam" in the Mojave language. Her chin is tattooed with permanent black designs.”


Professor Furst goes on to say "The creator of this beautiful image simulated shredded bark for the skirt and gave her a thick blue and white bead necklace. She is decorated with the vertical striped body paint worn by both men and women. Some hair remains glued to her unusually large and skillfully modeled head. The face, which has a rather pensive expression, is sufficiently individual to be almost a portrait."

The description of this ceramic figurine in the Dillingham collection is:

Female Figure
Artist Unknown
Height Ca. 8" (21 CM)
SAR 1994-4-5



This mysterious male is another figure from the Dillingham collection of Mojave ceramics collected by Rick Dillingham during his lifetime.

As explained by Professor Jill Leslie Furst:

"This mysterious figure wears a long red skirt, without the string or cloth belt that usually fastens the garment. Beneath the skirt, however, it [is male]. Moreover, its body paint--red horizontal stripes on a white ground--is worn only by males. Perhaps the original male clothing deteriorated, and a non-Mojave owner replaced it with a strip of red cloth, not understanding that a long, wrapped garment was inappropriate for a male image.”

She goes on to say, "Artists usually did not include nose ornaments on figurines. This one is an exception. He has a single strand of beads through his septum, and among the Mojaves, a beaded nose ornament was solely a masculine accoutrement. Women's noses were not drilled.”

The description of this ceramic figurine is:
Male Figure
Artist Unknown
Height Ca. 6" (15.5 CM)
SAR 1994-4-33


Source: "Mojave Pottery, Mojave People: The Dillingham Collection of Mojave Ceramics" by Jill Leslie Furst. Photographs by Peter T. Furst. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press (2001).