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UNEARTHING FORREST FENN’S

LOVE OF POTTERY By Emmaly Wiederholt Photos Linda Carfagno


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hese days, Forrest Fenn is perhaps best known for the 42-pound, million-dollar treasure he’s buried somewhere in the area, causing a mini sensation among seekers. But what some might not guess about the octogenarian anthropologist and artifacts dealer are the treasures in his private collection — among his effects are several ancient pieces of pottery. As he starts talking about pots dating back to the 1400s from San Lazaro Pueblo, it becomes clear that listening to Fenn is perhaps the next best thing to stepping back in time. “I have been collecting pottery since 1962. I was excavating in a friend’s Indian ruin in northern Arizona,” remembers Fenn. In fact, he still has the first pot he found. He goes on to describe the allure it held for him: “Prehistoric pottery is representative of an ancient culture. When I find a pottery bowl, I have so

many questions about that bowl: who made it? What was it used for? What were the ingredients it was made from? What is the paint on it? The black paint on it — is it Rocky Mountain Beeweed, a plant that grows in the Southwest, or is it galena, a metal pigment? I like to feel how heavy the bowl is. I like to smell it. I like to look at the bottom to see how it’s rubbed, how many times it’s been pushed across a rock to feed people. It’s an indication of what life was like many years ago.” The richness of his pottery collection is a treat for even the uninformed. His advice for people who are interested in learning more about pottery: “I think they need to ask themselves what they want. Do they want history or art? There’s a difference. The old pottery was made to be used. The new pottery is made to be looked at. There are some contemporary pots you can’t even put water in. Education and experience are the only two ways

to know the quality of a pot. Don’t try to guess. If you’re interested in a piece of contemporary pottery, go meet the person who made it.” Following Fenn as he walks from room to room in his house, one gets the sense of being in a museum more than in a person’s home. Clearly, his interest in pottery and his larger anthropological pursuits have dominated his life. “I found my first arrowhead when I was nine. It changed the course of my life forever,” he explains. “If you’ve never been consumed by something, you deserve another term. I’ve been consumed with three or four different things in my life, and that’s where the reward is: when I’m so consumed I don’t want to go to bed and I can’t wait to get up in the morning. It was like that with pottery. I studied it, wrote stories about it, collected, bought and sold it. I’ve loved everything about it.” 

Profile for Fine Lifestyles

UNEARTHING FOREST FENN'S LOVE OF POTTERY  

These days, Forrest Fenn is perhaps best known for the 42-pound, million-dollar treasure he’s buried somewhere in the area, causing a mini s...

UNEARTHING FOREST FENN'S LOVE OF POTTERY  

These days, Forrest Fenn is perhaps best known for the 42-pound, million-dollar treasure he’s buried somewhere in the area, causing a mini s...

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