North America, New Mexico, Spanish Colonial period, ca. 1770 to 1820 CE. A beautifully preserved example of a New Mexican petaca (traveling trunk), made of rawhide leather with a cotton cloth lined interior. It features iron hinges and a large iron lock on the front. The leather has a fabulous repeated geometric decoration on all sides, made by overlaying leather bands in a style that was inspired by the Aztecs. Petacas like this one were used throughout the Spanish Empire with some regional stylistic variations. Size: 17″ L x 25.5″ W x 14.75″ H (43.2 cm x 64.8 cm x 37.5 cm)
Mary Caroline Montano, in her book “Tradiciones Nuevomexicanas: Hispano Arts and Culture of New Mexico”, writes, “Some New Mexican chests were made with leather overlay, an influence of Mexico’s Aztec Indians, who called their leather chests “petacas” (derived from the Nahuatl term “petlacalli”, indicating the pre-Columbian interwoven strips of cane or palm fiber, and later, cloth and leather). The term is still used in New Mexico and southern Colorado.” (pg . 103).