Can you tell me about the 1903 museum expedition where this was collected? Did Brooklyn Museum do digs in pueblos or how did they acquire these?
Stewart Culin, an ethnographer and curator for the Brooklyn Museum, traveled to the Southwest and purchased many objects while there.
At time time, there were already some regulations on the purchase and excavation of Native American objects, both imposed by the United States Government (if the object was found on federal land) and through tribal authorities. Culin noted that objects of major significance were not for sale.
The Museum today fully complies with North American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and tribal authorities/governments
in relation to our Native North American collections.
Is there a cultural significance to the zig zags or are they purely aesthetic?
It's theorized that the lines may be a reference to water and the color turquoise. Water was, of course, an important resource in the dry climates of the American Southwest.
As with any design motif, there is an aesthetic component to it. Take, for example how the artist adapted the cross hatching to fit the shape of the ladle. It's really quite beautiful, I think!