The Pitzer Collection of Mayan Textiles

The textiles woven by Mayan women have long been appreciated for their beauty and sophistication. Using just a simple backstrap loom (also known as a stick loom), highland Mayan women create intricately brocaded blouses for themselves and clothing for their families. In the Yucatan and areas with a more temperate climate, women take advantage of the colorful array of embroidery thread available to embellish their families' lightweight cotton clothing. Thanks to women's skill, creativity, and ingenuity, textiles produced by the Mayan people are attractive and utilitarian. But while the textiles of the Mayan people can be appreciated solely for their aesthetic value, this is an inherently limited interpretation. Mayan textiles are much more than pretty pieces of fabric. The clothing worn by Mayan people on a daily basis communicates a lot of information about the wearer, including his or her social status in the community, his or her ethnic group, and the area in which he or she lives.

This exhibit of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History's collection of Mayan textiles will point out some of the various messages that Mayan clothing communicates. This collection was assembled over many years, in large part by John C. Pitzer, and represents many of the diverse Mayan communities in Mexico and Guatemala.


Take a guided tour
of the textile collection

Or browse the collection by topic