New Mexican Inlaid Cross, Late 1800s

Members of either the Zuni or Navajo communities likely made this small wooden cross near Gallop, New Mexico in the northwestern corner of the state. It is composed of wood decorated with straw inlayed into pine resin darkened with soot. It dates to the last half of the 19th century.
Scholars believe that straw applique originated in Spain and came to Mexico at the turn of the 19th century. The technique was then adopted by Native Americans where it was spread throughout Mexico reaching its northern regions where it became a popular artistic tradition. Inlaying straw into resin covered wood imitated the European art of inlaying wood with precious materials such as gold, silver, and ivory. Today, several artisans continue the tradition and combine decorative patterns similar to those of Native Americans.
The influence of Native American decoration with geometric shapes combined with the strong elements of European Catholic devotional items influenced a tradition started generations ago kept alive by artists using the technique today.
Date made
ca. 1850-1900
place made
United States: New Mexico, Gallup
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
corn husk (overall material)
overall: 6 1/2 in x 3 3/4 in x 3/8 in; 16.51 cm x 9.525 cm x .9525 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
See more items in
Home and Community Life: Religion
Many Voices, One Nation
Many Voices, One Nation
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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