Nestled in the Hopi Reservation of northeastern Arizona, the Hopi tribe is widely known for its beautiful kachina dolls, which have deep historical and cultural significance to tribal culture and spirituality. While many commonly think of the intricately carved 3-dimensional figures as what “kachina dolls” are, traditionally, simple kachina dolls were gifted to Hopi children at various points of maturity as teaching tools for upcoming ceremonies. Read on to find out more about historical kachina dolls and their deeply rooted connection to tribal culture and religion.
History of Kachina Dolls
The word Kachinas, or katsinas, represents the spirit beings that are central to Hopi religion. They also represent the dolls that are carved to symbolize these spirits, which are also used as educational tools for children. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that there were documented instances of traders external to the tribe acquiring these dolls. However, in modern times, the production and sale of these carved figures and other types of artistic production, such as pottery and jewelry, make up a significant portion of the Hopi economy.
Types of Kachina Dolls
There are more than 400 different spiritual beings in the Hopi religion, and Kachina dolls were used to teach children of various ages about these different beings and the properties they represented. There were four different types of Hopi Kachina dolls given to children depending on their ages and gender:
- Putsqatihu: These dolls were given to infants and were normally simple and flat figures with some drawing or painting design.
- Putstihu taywa’yla: These dolls were given to toddlers and normally comprised of a flat body with a 3-dimensional face.
- Muringputihu: These dolls were typically reserved for infant girls and included a carved face with a cylinder body.
- Tithu: These are what most people think of when it comes to Kachina dolls. They were typically given to children aged 2 and up, and exhibited a fully developed 3-dimensional figure, with most of them resembling a typical doll shape and dimension.
Other Kachina Doll Classifications
It is still often quite challenging to classify the different Kachina dolls due to their widely varied functions. However, they can be grouped into four stylistic periods- Early Traditional, Late Traditional, Early Action, and Late Action. Kachina dolls also range in size from around 3 inches up to 20 inches in height.
Kachina Dolls & Hopi Katchina Dolls
If you’re interested in purchasing your very own Kachina doll, get in touch with us today at Palms Trading Company. We sell authentic pieces crafted by local artisans, and our knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect piece to add to your collection!