Notebook, 1993-

CERAMICS -- The Mimbres Art and Archaeology [Fewkes] -- Mimbres Painted Pottery [Brody]

Generations in Clay -- Pueblo Pottery: The Prehistoric Period -- Pueblo Pottery: The Protohistoric and Historic Periods

[Notes From: Generations In Clay, Pueblo Pottery of the American Southwest, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred Plog, Northland Publishing in Cooperation with the American Federation of Arts, 7th Printing, 1989.]

Pueblo Pottery: The Prehistoric
[pgs. 73-77]

The Following are discussed in the text: Anasazi, the ancient occupants of the Pueblo region -- First ceramics in the Puebloan world were recovered from sites that date to about the time of Christ. Interaction with peoples to the south began indirectly by 2500 B.C -- Mogollon area of Arizona and New Mexico -- Upper San Juan River Basin -- between A.D. 1 and 400 -- Plain brownware, Sambrito Brown, continued to be made through the period A.D. 400 to 700 with the development of sophisticated vessel forms. Surfaces were well polished but with no known painted decorations -- Movement of Mogollon peoples, ideas, or trade items into the area -- Obelisk Gray, A.D. 450 to 800, was the earliest ceramic type identified in central Arizona -- Lino Gray -- Corrugated pottery -- Painted Pottery -- Tusayan White Ware -- Little Colorado White Ware -- Mesa Verde -- Cibola White Ware -- Lino Black-on-gray design motifs

Archaeologists have defined hundreds of types of pottery that were made by the Anasazi, the ancient occupants of the Pueblo region. To inspect each and every type in detail would be both tedious and not very enlightening. The prehistoric types that are considered here will be ones that illustrate the pattern and direction of prehistoric painted pottery. Perhaps the major compromise made here will be the brief treatment of plain and corrugated wares. These types, alone or in combination, generally constitute eighty to ninety percent of the sherds and vessels that have been recovered from Anasazi prehistoric sites....

As noted earlier, the first ceramics in the Puebloan world were recovered from sites that date to about the time of Christ. Elsewhere in the Southwest, the earliest ceramics were from sites occupied after 300 B.C. These remains were probably the product of occasional experimentation with ceramic manufacture, experimentation directly or indirectly reflecting the diffusion of an important technological tradition from Mesoamerica.

Pottery-making was not an independent invention of Southwestern peoples. Interaction with peoples to the south began indirectly by 2500 B.C., when primitive maize was first introduced to the Southwest. It was not until over 2,000 years later, however, that the production of ceramics followed. Once established, ceramic production in the southern Southwest continued to be influenced by style changes in the northern part of Mesoamerica, and these concepts were transmitted northward in a modified form.

The earliest ceramics found in the Puebloan area were brownwares, which occurred in contexts that appeared even earlier in the Mogollon area of Arizona and New Mexico. Thus there is an important question as to whether the early Anasazi potters were immigrants from the Mogollon region or simply influenced by the potters working in the south. Unfortunately, this question is not one that can be resolved at present. In fact, current study suggests a complex mixture of imported and locally manufactured brownwares.

In the Upper San Juan River Basin, for example, settled communities with houses of cribbed log construction were present between A.D. 1 and 400. The structures and accompanying artifacts bear strong resemblances to the remains of early Mogollon Tradition in southwestern New Mexico. In some of these excavated houses in the Upper San Juan River region, archaeologists have found plain brownware ceramics, including a poorly fired (or unfired) form of Los Pinos Brown as well as a fired form. [55] Plain brownware, Sambrito Brown, continued to be made through the period A.D. 400 to 700 with the development of sophisticated vessel forms. Surfaces were well polished but with no known painted decorations. [56] A plain brownware, Rosa Brown, continued to be made after black-on-white types came into use and may have represented persistence of the old technology for specialized small vessels, pipes, figurines, and whorls. [57] Early brownwares were also made in southern Utah and in the Little Colorado region, generally. As late as A. D. 550 to 950, ceramics in the Albuquerque area were brownware, suggesting continued movement of Mogollon peoples, ideas, or trade items into the area.

Obelisk Gray, A.D. 450 to 800, was the earliest ceramic type identified in central Arizona and is thought to be related to the Mogollon Tradition. In color, the paste ranged from a pale orange, through a light brown, to light or dark gray, and the surface exhibited a definite polish. Examples of the type with painted decorations have not been found.

The most widespread indigenous plainware type was Lino Gray, which was made by Anasazi potters at settlements throughout the area, beginning perhaps as early as A.D. 500. Lino Gray is a Tusayan Gray Ware, separated from other wares by a dark gray to almost black surface color and by larger, angular quartz temper particles that pierced the vessel surface, producing a sandpaper look. In the Mesa Verde area, Chapin Gray, which had crushed rock as well as sand temper, is a counterpart.

Brownwares were made by the Anasazi, as well as imported from the Mogollon. Graywares were certainly made by local artisans. That the brownwares led to local production of graywares is perhaps best indicated by experimentation found among transitional forms.

The period before A.D. 600, when plainwares were the most exclusive product of local potters, was a time of low and very dispersed population. While there are indications of some villages that were larger than others and that may have been social, political, or economic centers, it is difficult to reach any firm conclusions concerning organizational patterns during this period. In much the same way, it would be problematical to attempt substantial interpretations of the ceramics. Fundamentally, this period was the first during which local peoples were experimenting with the production and distribution of ceramic products. To regard the epoch as other than experimental, to interpret distributional patterns as direct reflections of social and cultural processes, would be at least problematical and more probably erroneous.

In some Puebloan districts, plainware ceramics continued to be the most common ware right up into modern times. Unfortunately, we understand relatively little of the manner in which they were produced and distributed. These "utilitarian" wares have few distinctive characteristics for archaeologists to use in inferring relationships between pottery and social organization and behavior. The painted types that occurred along with plainwares during most of the Anasazi occupation of the Colorado Plateau allow for more specific inferences.

Corrugated pottery [pg. 74-75] was made by leaving coils, or fillets, on the exterior surface of the pot. Designs were created both by the kinds of corrugation used and by the amount of a vessel covered. The surface of some corrugated types was covered by even, horizontal bands. Indentations varied considerably in width, height, and direction of overlap. Obliterated types were ones where a final scraping removed evidence of fillets. Incised and punched patterns occurred on some corrugated types. The alternation of different techniques of corrugation is called patterned corrugated.

Because of the bewildering variety of lines, shapes, depths, and patterns that were created in this fashion, corrugated wares are poorly understood. It is known that there were at least four major wares: a sand tempered brownware, a sand tempered grayware, a sherd tempered grayware, and a crushed-rock tempered brownware, but the design distinctions within these types are often poorly described at present.

Corrugated wares began to replace plainwares in most districts by A.D. 850-1000. In some areas of the Southwest, they completely replaced plainwares; in others, plainwares remained predominant; while in still others, there was a complex alternation through time. Later, corrugated wares were sometimes painted with one or more colors.

Painted Pottery. The Anasazi first began to produce painted pottery about A.D. 600, and Puebloan potters in some villages even today still make black-on-white vessels. While there was no time between A.D. 600 and the present when black-on-white types were not being produced somewhere in the Puebloan world, the heyday of black-on-white pottery-making was from about 850 to 1250.

A number of different changes were taking place among the Anasazi during these times. Above-ground pueblos were replacing pithouses, although not at precisely the same time in every district; some relatively large villages were built and occupied, villages of at least dozens and perhaps hundreds of rooms; some districts were heavily involved in agriculture, including the construction of extensive terracing and irrigation systems; and the population was much greater.

Had one been able to travel through the Anasazi area during this period, its most striking characteristic would probably have been diversity. The countryside would have been dotted with small farmsteads, and one would have occasionally passed small villages. The wooden structures and pithouses of the homesteads would have stood in strong contrast to the masonry pueblo villages. Staying in such a village for several days, one might have witnessed local members exchanging agricultural products and craft goods for hunted and gathered products with people from outlying areas. A complex mosaic of settlements and productive activities existed then, and ceramic distribution provides important clues to the manner in which local peoples organized their affairs.

Black-on-white pottery was never produced in great abundance. The vessels held by farmstead dweller and villager alike would have been predominantly plain or corrugated, depending on the time and the place. The average village dweller would probably have been in possession of a few painted pots, especially if these were viewed as having economic value or if they served as markers of social status.

While very little is currently known about the nature of ceramic production during this period, it is highly unlikely that every farmstead produced pottery and doubtful that even every village did. Essentially, this conclusion is reached because of the strong similarities in ceramic technology from particular parts of the Anasazi area.

Tusayan White Ware. Perhaps the most widely distributed black-on-white ware is Tusayan White Ware, which is distinguished from other wares by the use of temper composed of large, angular quartz sand particles and the use of carbon paint. Although its source is currently not known, such quartz sand might have been taken from deposits found in various districts of northeastern Arizona or, in this context, the area including the districts from the Little Colorado River north to the San Juan River in southeast Utah and from the Colorado River to the Chuska Mountains along the Arizona-New Mexico border.

The people of this region continued living in small pithouse villages up to the abandonment period. Larger villages typically consisted of several pithouses, a sub-surface kiva, and a surrounding arc of masonry surface storage rooms. Evidence of pottery-making in these villages is minimal, and preliminary petrographic studies suggest that it was probably being done in relatively few locations.

Little Colorado White Ware. After about A.D. 1050, Tusayan White Ware was replaced by Little Colorado White Ware in the area between the Hopi mesas and the Mogollon Rim on the north and south, and between Flagstaff and Holbrook on the west and east respectively. Little Colorado White Ware shared carbon paint with Tusayan White Ware, but had ground sherd rather than sand temper. Very little is known of sites in the Little Colorado area of this period. Generally, they seem to have been quite small, fifteen rooms constituting a large site. Kivas were found periodically and may have been ceremonial and political centers.

Little Colorado White Ware was a very short-lived phenomenon. A decline in production began by A.D. 1150, and few examples are found after 1250. Petrographic studies of this ware show a very substantial homogeneity of temper and paste characteristics across the entire region. Similarity of sherds from different areas is so great as to suggest only one or two centers of production.

Mesa Verde. The Mesa Verde region, in terms of the distribution of its distinctive ware, was an oval-shaped area extending through northwest New Mexico, southwest Colorado, and into southeast Utah. An approximate southern margin was the San Juan River, while the La Plata Mountains and the Dolores River in Colorado marked the northern limits. East to west, most of the ceramics were found between the Animas River of Colorado and the Abajo Mountains in Utah. Mesa Verde White Wares are distinguished from other wares by the use of crushed rock temper, especially adnesite. Later, sherd temper was mixed with crushed rock. Paint type was variable, with carbon replacing mineral paint about A.D. 1150.

Today, the Mesa Verde area is one of the most accessible parts of the prehistoric Southwest. The extensive cliff dwellings are visited by millions of tourists each year. The area appears to have been one of the most densely populated in the Southwest in prehistoric times. As early as A.D. 850, large surface villages consisting of L-shaped blocks of rooms were in evidence. These grew in size and in distribution until they were eventually replaced by compact surface pueblos and extensive cliff dwellings. Little petrographic work has been done with Mesa Verde ceramics, but they were highly distinctive from other wares, and the standardization of design suggests at least some specialization in their production.

Cibola White Ware. Ceramics that have been grouped together and called Cibola White Ware were manufactured over a large area from central-eastern Arizona eastward into the Rio Grande drainage of New Mexico. The segment of this region that lies in Arizona extends from the Mogollon Rim north to the Little Colorado-Rio Puerco (West) drainage and east of a north-south line near Joseph City, Arizona. In New Mexico, the region includes the Chaco Basin in the northwestern quarter of the state and, in the central-western section, through Acoma and Zuñi as far south as the Mogollon Rim. It should be noted that the true extent of the region is far from clear, since there were periods when Cibola White Ware types were replaced by types from other wares, or when Cibola White Ware types were present outside this area.

There are a number of technological attributes that types of Cibola White Ware have in common. Mineral paint was used throughout in combination with a gray to white paste pottery. Temper in the early types was quartz sand, but after A.D. 875, crushed sherd was introduced and slowly replaed the sand. Because of this technological diversity, some scholars argue that the use of the term "ware" in the singular is incorrect--that, in fact, there are multiple Cibola White Wares, possibly from different production centers. The surfaces on the earliest types were poorly smoothed, and the temper protruded on the surface. Nevertheless, the technique of surface finishing improved rapidly, and after 950, most types were well polished at least on one surface and a thin to medium slip was applied. A high polish and a thick slip were characteristic between 1100 and 1250. After about 1300, glaze-paint decorated types, often polychrome, were favored, and Cibola White Ware died out. Even though the ware disappeared, many of the design concepts continued and later revivals drew upon them.

Tusayan, Little Colorado, Mesa Verde, and Cibola are four technological categories that represent the major productive distinctions during the period when the manufacture of black-on-white pottery predominated. Nevertheless, there were local exceptions of two sorts. First, archaeologists recognize minor differences in the percentage of tempering material or paint, which may reflect local manufacturing centers. Secondly, there were areas in which evidence of local production is minimal, such as the San Juan Basin and the Rio Grande area. In both areas, the majority of black-on-white types can be classified by comparing their technology to other areas. Nevertheless, there are occasional indications of local manufacture. In the case of the San Juan River region, local differences have been inferred on the basis of style. In the case of the Rio Grande, there are technological differences; of particular importance is the use of volcanic tuff temper for some types. While these are of minor quantitative importance, they suggest at least occasional local experimentation.

Certainly some aspects of variation among the wares reflect the increasing sophistication of the Anasazi artist. Formal treatment of the surface on the earliest vessels was minimal--the effort was simply to create the surface. Manipulation of the surface began with slipping, polishing, and corrugation. The most sophisticated examples of each of these treatments date to the period around A. D. 1300. Thus, the process of learning how to handle the surface underlies some of the variations described.

Clearly, many aspects of surface variation reflected local taste, and the changes in pigment types used through time provide a case in point. The earliest painted types in northern Arizona used carbon paint. Mineral pigments were typical in New Mexico and the Mesa Verde area, and by the late 1000s, carbon paint began to replace mineral paint among the pottery of Mesa Verde and the San Juan Basin. This change also took place in the Rio Grande Valley beginning about 1225. But during this same period, mineral paints were replacing carbon pigments in the portion of Arizona south of the Little Colorado River; in the Zuñi and Ãcoma areas, mineral pigments were used throughout. Glaze paints appeared briefly about A. D. 700 but did not last. They were rediscovered or reintroduced about 1250 among craftspeople in east-central Arizona and spread eastward to artisans in the Rio Grande Valley, where they lasted until about 1700.

Temper represents an intermediate aspect of variation. The widespread replacement of natural tempers by sherd tempers reflects the superiority of the latter; it had physical characteristics that produced somewhat stronger vessel walls. Nevertheless, variation in the use of the natural materials is clearly distinctive of localities, although crushed rock could have been used in many areas where sand predominated, and vice versa.

Because prehistoric potters clearly had options in regard to their use of pigments and temper, it is reasonable to infer that the wares reflected local manufacturing traditions. This is not to argue that the areas over which particular wares were distributed represented political or other social units. Rather, they were interactive zones in which prehistoric peoples probably maintained relatively stronger social, political, and economic ties. At least, they were areas in which the Anasazi exchanged common pieces of decorative art.

Lino Black-on-gray design motifs were simple lines frequently ticked or fringed. There were often narrow bands framed by narrow lines, within which were rows of small dots. Solid elements were small and confined mainly to triangles on lines or filling in a corner at the junction of lines. This design concept is generally the style thought to be derived from basketry; motifs of Mogollon ceramic origin are less common. [end of pg. 77]


[Generations In Clay, Pueblo Pottery of the American Southwest, by Alfred E. Dittert, Jr., and Fred Plog, Northland Publishing in Cooperation with the American Federation of Arts, 7th Printing, 1989.]>/font color=cococo>



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