Monday, March 4, 2013

Dynamic Dyes of Telluride

This cave is near the original cave the Turner's stumbled upon.

It was an average day in 1896 for Mel Turner and his nephew Ed. As they herded stray cattle, meandering through the mesas of Southern Colorado, something on a nearby hill caught their eye. As they grew closer they spied a large cave and the two eagerly scrambled up the hillside to investigate.

Partially buried in the floor of the cave the Turner’s discovered an earthen vessel containing beads, a bone awl, a 16 foot long string of glass beads, and a square textile in nearly perfect condition. Little did Mel and Ed realize that they had stumbled upon what would become one of Colorado’s most prized and priceless artifacts: the Telluride Blanket.

The blanket was woven on a loom with what is called a twill weave. Twill weaves are used today to create denim, and seeing as it is a sophisticated and difficult weave to master, the Anasazi weaver was likely an expert at his craft. The blanket was probably made by a man, as ancient Puebloans traditionally delegated weaving to their men, and it likely served as a “wearing blanket,” or a multi-purpose blanket that provided warmth, helped with heavy loads, cushioned seating, or swaddled infants.

Dated at over 800 years old, the Telluride Blanket has surpassed the typical lifespan of similar textiles by nearly 700 years. According to textile expert Kate Peck Kent, “No other complete specimen exists. There are only two other patterned prehistoric blankets that match this when it comes to its undamaged state.”

Many mysteries still surround the blanket and its history. Where was the blanket made? What was the story of its maker? Where was the cotton harvested for its delicate threads? And what dyes were used to create its vibrant pattern?

The Telluride Historical Museum is excited to host a new program, Cool Colors with Dynamic Dyes on Tuesday, March 5 at 3:30pm. Delve deeper into the history of the blanket, its wild journey to the Museum, and how it has been preserved over time. We will unravel possible sources for the blanket’s rich color and then try our hand at dying our own textile. While all are welcome, this program is best suited for children grades 1-4. Hope to see you there!

Anne Gerhard
Programs and Interpretation Coordinator
Telluride Historical Museum