Lesson 906: The Potters of Northwest Mexico—Past and Present

Potters in northwest Mexico have been producing fine ceramics for more than a thousand years. Excavations at Paquimé, Chihuahua reveal a culture renowned for its designs and exports 500 years before Europeans arrived. Sixty years ago, villagers not far away discovered that they too could produce fine ceramics. Today their products are world famous.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the excavations in Paquimé, Chihuahua and its fine pottery with intricate designs.

Social Studies Standards

Time Continuity, & Change: A, D

Discussion Prompts

  • What are some of the ways that excavations help bring back the livelihood of the region? Do all excavations have the same results?
  • What are some of the reasons that the Amerind Foundation knew about the history of the place that led them to invest in an archeological excavation there?
  • Eric Kaldahl, the director of the Amerind Foundation, talks about the pottery excavated showing different types of macaws and people. Why is that different from other famous potteries? What might be the meaning of the two elements found on almost all potteries excavated?
  • How might you depict the artistic life of the people living around and in the Paquimé area today when compared to their ancestors?

Lesson Activities

  • What are some of the other professions that co-exist along with ceramicists since every house has at least one? Create a list of at least 8 other professions that might be found around the area and your inferences or reasons why you think that.
  • As a landscape architect, you decided to beautify the city of Mata Ortiz. As part of the planning, you met with the mayor because you needed answers for 5 questions about: what else you would need to know, 5 questions about what you find worrisome; and your stance or suggestion for moving forward with this idea. Share the questions with your peers.
  • Create a tessellation, using one of Mata Ortiz designs combined with a local design that speaks about your region as the theme. Include an explanation about the tessellation using mathematical language like the potters on the video.
  • You are an entrepreneur and you decided to open a store in Mata Ortiz because it seems like there is enough tourism to warrant it. Provide information about your future business such as what you are planning on selling, jobs creation, etc. as part of the process to open a business in the area.


  • amerind
  • archeological
  • ceramicist
  • excavation
  • heritage
  • kilns
  • oxidation
  • preservation
  • reduction fire


In the Americas Season 9 Lesson Episode 6