In Latin, the word “Olla” means a type of pot used for cooking and storage. While it is possible that Spaniards may have introduced Ollas to Native Americans, it is more likely that early tribes had already developed there own type of this pot. The Mission Indian tribes, among many others, used Ollas for cooking, storage and serving food.
Among Native Americans cultures, Ollas were often used for storing water, especially in the hotter southwestern regions. The neck of the pot was made narrow to prevent evaporation. Early Ollas were unglazed and slightly porous so water would slowly seep through to the exterior of the pot, where it would evaporate and cool the contents of the vessel. Many tribes in the American Southwest used the practice of hanging an Olla from a rope in a shady spot, keeping the water cool.
Some tribes used Ollas for irrigation purposes. The porous vessel was placed in the ground near buried plant roots with the neck extending above the soil. The olla was then filled with water, which slowly released into the soil.
The term Olla is also used to describe the regional basketry of the Western Apache. These baskets have a similar shape to the pottery bowl with a narrow neck and wide body.
Fighting Bear Antiques specializes Native American Ollas and we invite you to explore our gallery. Please contact us with any requests you may have. We look forward to assisting you as you explore Native American Art collecting.