Zuñi War Gods

John Hillers (American, born Germany, 1843–1925)

ca. 1880
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.3 x 23.1 cm. (7 3/16 x 9 1/16 in.)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 1995
Accession Number:
  • Description

    As an oarsman on John Wesley Powell's Grand Canyon expedition of 1871, Hillers first took up the camera in order to substitute for the party's unruly photographer. Powell later became the director of the Smithsonian Institution's Bureau of Ethnology, and in 1879 he assigned Hillers to photograph the indigenous settlements of New Mexico before they were changed by the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Hillers's vision, free of either sensationalism or nostalgia, is typified by his photograph of figures representing the Zuni war god Ahayu:da. After their ceremonial use, these sacred carvings, made from lightning-struck pine trees, were installed in an exposed mountain shrine, where they stood upright in front of an ever-growing chancel wall composed of their predecessors.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in the negative, BLC: "Zuñi War Gods"; BRC: "Hillers. Photo."; inscribed in pencil on the mount, recto, below print: "Zuni: (Newq Mexico) Kriegs-Götter"

  • Provenance

    Charles Isaacs