String of Shells - ROM2019_17411_25


String of Shells

Maker: Casas Grandes Culture
Geography: Casas Grandes Valley, Mexico
Date: AD 1200 - 1400
Object number: HMC468
Not on view

In the Chihuahuan desert of northern Mexico, the Casas Grandes culture flourished in the regional centre of Paquimé from 1200-1400 AD. Paquimé is the largest known ancient Puebloan town and was a massive trade centre that specialized in exotic goods like macaws, turquoise, and sea shells like this ones. Shells were transported to Paquimé from the Gulf of California, over 400km away. Elite men and women sometimes wore these shells as jewelry, but the majority of the shell at Paquimé is unworked. The shells likely had religious meaning since groups across Mesoamerica and South America, such as the Maya, Aztec, and Ancestral Pueblo, associated shells with fertility and rainfall. The shells might have been raw material for artisans, trade goods, or a display of power. Another suggestion by scholars is that the shells were left by pilgrims who visited the sea and then travelled to the site.

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