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LARGE  APACHE TUS – WOVEN PITCH COVERED WATER JAR – LATE 19TH CENTURY – EXCELLENT FRONTIER  APACHERIA  ERA PIECE:  These Apache Tus have been described as “timeless”, woven in the same shapes, of the same native plant materials, and coated in the same manner with pitch from the pinon pines for longer than human memory can recall.  Once the proper materials and method of construction were perfected, there was simply no reason to change either one, and the Tus descended through history, continuing to serve the Apache people well as a necessary utensil in each household.

After tightly weaving the foundation basket, in order to make the basket waterproof so that it would hold water both the interior and exterior were coated in pinon pine pitch.  The exterior was then finished by rubbing a mixture of Juniper leaves or needles and red ochre to further seal the surface and to impart a pleasing red color to the translucent pine pitch.  The red color on this tus has aged to an even mellow medium reddish brown.  

Measuring 11" tall and just shy of 9" in diameter at the widest point, this Tus has survived in very good condition.  With no breaks or separations in the woven material, it is stable and strong throughout and retains its full form.  The rim of the opening is finished with a nicely executed braid, one of the recognized features of a well made Tus.   While these top rim edges are prone to being broken or separated through time or improper handling, the rim on this Tus remains firmly attached with no sign of weakness.  The pinon pine pitch coating is intact over the majority of the external surface with only small points of wear where the underlying weaving was exposed.  The interior is likewise coated with pitch.  Note that the color of the pitch is much darker – more of a deep reddish brown - than it appears in the photos. Without increasing the light and contrast of the photos which in turn lightened the color of the pitch as it appears in the photos, the pitch appeared as black and no detail of the surface was discernable.  

The two original horse hair handles, each formed of five braids of black hair, are fully intact with no broken strands and they remain supple and quite strong.  Tied between the two handles is a strip of cotton cloth – red, with a beige dot pattern – forming a hanging or carrying handle.  The cloth strip looks to have originally been approximately 1 ˝” wide and was torn or cut from a bandana or a piece of shirting.  It is laced three times between the two sets of horse hair handle braids and the ends of the cloth strip were then knotted to hold it in place.  The cloth is obviously old and shows wear, but it is not rotten or decayed.   

A similar tus is pictured in James Hanson’s Spirits in the Art, a photographic anthology of Native American art, which is identified as Jicarilla Apache, dated ca. 1880.  That tus shares the same basic form as this specimen to include the two horse hair braided handles and those handles, like those on this specimen, are drawn together with a strip of material, suggesting this was a common manner of carrying or hanging these jars.   

While the consistency of the design of these Tus through the years makes dating them somewhat difficult, this specimen show obvious signs of age and patina, and the weight and sturdy construction are such that this Tus was made to use in a time when the owner depended on it to haul and hold the water for the household.  Certainly it dates back to the last quarter of the 19TH Century.  Further arguing for its age, this Tus was obtained from the same collection as the other early Apache pieces which are, or will soon be, listed on our site.  All of the items date from the last half or quarter of the 19TH Century, and I suspect they were collected by the same unknown person during their time in the Arizona and/or New Mexico Territories – perhaps an army officer who brought these pieces home as souvenirs of his service.   

This is very nice specimen of a vessel which would have been an absolute necessity in every Apache home, and was likely used in more than a few officers’ quarters and enlisted barracks in the forts established across the Southwest Frontier.   (0358)  $1200



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