Sandals of The Anasazi

A Virtual Exhibit at the Utah Museum of Natural History and accompanying catalog explore the Anasazi sandal collection of them museum.

Catalog: Available from the Great Basin Gift Shop, Utah Museum of Natural History. Edited by Kathy Kankainen. The catalog includes four essays:

    • "Anasazi Textiles" by Elizabeth A. Morris
    • "Archaeology" by Duncan Metcalfe
    • "Plant Perspective" by Richard Holloway
    • "Sandal Styles, Materials and Techniques" by Kathy Kankainen
         and 332 color photographs of the sandals by Laurel Casjens

History

From approximately AD. 1 to 1300, the people we now refer to as Anasazi inhabited parts of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Their impressive and enigmatic rock art and architectural ruins are well known, but the arid Four Corners climate has also preserved such artifacts as loomed clothes, intricate baskets, and sandals.

The desert plant yucca was the most common source of fiber for these sandals. The yucca leaves were used whole, split or separated; sometimes they were shredded and then spun and twisted into cordage. The yucca was woven (two or more fibers were interlaced) into the sandal's sole; ties and loops were added to secure the sandals to the wearers feet.

The 312 Anasazi sandals in the Museum's collection demonstrate the weaver's genius as skilled textile artists. The sandals incorporate colorful geometric patterns and reveal elaborate manipulations of warp and weft. Within the relatively rigid requirements of size, shape and function, the weavers created almost as many decorative expressions as there are recorded specimens. The impact of the sandals as a group is emotionally and aesthetically powerful: attribute to the Anasazi sandal weavers.

Weaving techniques, decorations, and shapes varied through time. The earliest sandals (AD 1-500) have square heels and toes woven in a twining and wrapping technique. The most intricate and finely woven sandals, having scalloped toes and puckered heels, and sometimes colored, date to AD 500-700. Between 700-900 weavers used coarse cordage to produce sandals with pointed or rounded toes. In later times, yucca leaves were used in plain weave and plaited sandals (AD 900-1300).