A post from Joan Price

Joan Price, JRI Research Associate

I have been looking for an archaeologist who went to the classroom of Elisa Martinez Barton, a native El Pasoan and art teacher now retired from Zach White school district in southwest El Paso. Mrs. Barton recalled an “archaeologist in a uniform around the middle 1990’s” who taught her students how to draw “the Magic Z, an icon found in many petroglyphs in the surrounding region.” She then taught his method for 20 years in her classes and hundreds of students produced artwork withthis Z motif. She had a student art show each year including this assignment and has saved some of these pieces.

Mrs. Barton came with a friend who contacted me to guide them around Three Rivers Petroglyph Site several years ago. It was a real visual and conceptual breakthrough for me when she recognized the Magic Z in many of the geometric designs on the stones (Photo at right, courtesy of Morningstar Black). And now, I have found the “Z” incorporated by Mimbres painters into pottery designs that I have been studying for some years for a Power Point lectures I have given several times in this region.

Mrs. Barton has consulted with me on the use of this motif in Mimbres pottery and we are finding more designs and glyph comparisons. This has very interesting possibilities for identification of source Mimbres sites. I will be looking at in the near future that may be linked to glyphs at Three Rivers.I am also considering implications in light of the research of Dorothy Bradshaw and Emory Sekaquaptewa on symmetry in ancestral traditions of Puebloan peoples.

I continue to search for any published research on this motif without any success. Is this buried in files somewhere? This archaeologist was doing educational outreach in the El Paso region and, yet, has fallen off our collective radar. I would like to call all archaeologists and anybody else who may remember this person or discussion that came into this time period about this person and their “Magic Z”. The substantiation would be invaluable to my research information in the future. Please contact me if you have any memories or comments at rainhousejoan@tularosa.net or
telephone (575) 740-7084.

A Mimbres pottery design with single line designs and “Z” motif. A single line design enclosing a “Z” motif.
Drawing courtesy of Carolyn O’Bagy Davis in TREASURED EARTH Hattie Cosgrove’s Mimbres Archaeology in the American Southwest, Sanpete Publications and Old Pueblo Archaeology Center, Tuscon, Arizona 1995.