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Before we begin describing the various Hohokam pottery types, it is important to explain a few things first. Lets start with paint color, specifically, red paint (hematite). The color of red paint can vary. It is usually blood red, but can range from light red to very dark red. Some sherds or vessels that went through a secondary fire, such as a house burning, can darken the red paint so that it looks black and can be confused with black painted types. However, these burned sherds or vessels will look burned and the natural or slipped background color will look darkened as well.

Most of the Red-on-Buff types from in and around the Phoenix basin are buff slipped, however, a diagnostic trait for the Sacaton Phase is a brighter more white colored slip than the earlier types. An argument could be made that many of these are white slipped, after all, many Sacaton Buffwares are as white as many Tucson basin red-on-white varieties. However, the Sacaton and later types are well known as buffware types, the latest (and brightest) in a long buffware series, and described as such in this guide.

Many decorated vessels found in and around the Tucson basin are white slipped. Some of these may intentionally be buff slipped. However, it would not be feasible for archaeologists to recognize these two slips as varieties or separate types. Trying to determine the subtle minute differences would likely prove grossly inaccurate (for example, it would be difficult to determine if a sherd is intentionally buff slipped, or a dirt-stained, white slipped sherd). I have listed a buff slipped Saguaro Polychrome variety. Saguaro Polychrome employs white paint, consequently white paint on a white slip would not have been feasible. The slip must have intended to be buff in color so that there would be some degree of contrast. (Most Saguaro Polychrome designs are decorated on natural brown exteriors and black smudged interior backgrounds, exhibiting good contrast.)

Another thing to explain is the background colors of the Red-on-Brown types. The natural background color of pottery may fire to several different colors ranging from tan to brown to a deep orange. Many of these brownware vessels have a natural orange background color that often looks like an applied slip. However, it is the iron in the clay that when fired to a certain temperature, brings out the orange color. The paste can be orange all the way thru, or usually if smudged, the orange can be varied in thickness, appearing to look like a slip towards the opposite surface, while towards the smudged surface the color can be tan, brown, gray, or black.

Smudged pots usually have a black background color, however, many Tucson Basin Brownware Smudged vessels can vary from black to light gray with many of them having “patches” of brown showing in places where the smudge did not “take” well.

When learning pottery types, keep in mind that there are always exceptions to the rules. Pottery designs and forms tend to overlap. While some potters in a village or pueblo may begin producing new forms and/or designs, others probably continued producing vessels the traditional way, until the demand for the traditional vessels passed. This could easily have taken up to 25 years or more. This is why all dates for all types are approximate.

Many pottery types were named on the basis of difference in design. Usually the only time they named a new type on the basis of design is when the design marked a temporal shift in time, or a specific regional location. However, most archaeologists named pottery types based on the technological differences. Some of these differences include, method of manufacture (paddle and anvil, or coil and scrape), form, temper, and texturing. However, the most basic technological differences were the different colors of pottery. This most commonly includes background color. Two common pottery type examples from Anasazi/Mogollon culture are Puerco Black-on-White, and Puerco Black-on-Red. Both Puerco Black-on-White, and Puerco Black-on-Red, employs the same color of paint, share many design styles, vessel forms, etc., yet they are known as different types. The only difference between these two types are the white and red background colors. There are also many other well known examples from several different cultures, that mirror this same point. Paint and background colors often vary in light to dark shades of the named color.  Many named "Redwares" are actually "Orangewares", often "Whitewares" are gray, etc.

Some Tucson basin brownware types have different background colors other than brown. Some are slipped red, some slipped white, and some are smudged black. I personally feel that if a background color (or a paint) was intended technologically to be a different color, then it should be described as a different type. Respectfully, archaeologists working in the Tucson basin did not seem to follow the same rules that archaeologists working most anywhere else did. I realize that at the time, several decades ago, archaeologists found so few examples of these different “varieties” that they were regarded as rare variants. However, recent archaeological work has “proved” that these were well represented types found throughout the Tucson Basin. During different periods of time at Los Morteros (a prehistoric settlement in the northern Tucson basin) as much as 75% of the decorated bowls found had a slipped white background color, and during another period of time, as much as 75% of the decorated bowls found were smudged (Wallace 1995:301).

In this guide I have listed both the white slipped and smudged varieties as separate types, but only if the primary design is painted on the white slip or smudge. I have listed these according to their phase names and background color (two examples given; Tanque Verde Red-on-White, and Tanque Verde Red-on-Black). I believe archaeologists have done enough work in and around the Tucson basin to realize that Tanque Verde Red-on-White, and Tanque Verde Red-on-Black, were commonly made, and that these (as well as other slipped or smudged wares in other phases) should lose variety status and become types. Doing this would bring much more sensibility and order in listing types and varieties in the Tucson Basin. I agree with Deaver that many named varieties are “cumbersome”, “contradictory and illogical” (Deaver 1989;48,49). Respectfully, for example, Beckwith describes a Tanque Verde Red-on-Brown variant as “Tanque Verde Red-on-Brown, Black-on-Brown, White Slipped Variant” (Beckwith 1987; 209). When a student archaeologist reads that, three different vessels pop into mind, until the student remembers it is only one vessel being described. Why not save time and ink and describe it as it is…..Tanque Verde Black-on-White, now when you read Tanque Verde Black-on-White, you immediately know exactly what is being described.

Respectfully, two other examples I would like to mention are vessels described by Wallace and Heidke. The first vessel has black painted designs (on a Rincon Redware) and is described by Wallace,1986;87. The second vessel has white painted designs (on a Rincon Redware) and is described by Heidke (Wallace, 1995;340). Both vessels are described as Rincon Polychrome Variants. However, because these vessels are in fact bichromes (two colors) they should not be considered polychrome (three or more colors). Although these vessels are rare, in this guide I list these as separate types; Rincon Black-on-Red, and Rincon White-on-Red. There is nothing in the rules of priority that state one needs a certain amount of sherds or vessels to warrant naming a type. Haury named Sweetwater Polychrome on the assemblage of one vessel and six sherds (Haury,1976;219-220). Another rare type he named is Santa Cruz Buff, which is stated to be made in only one form – a strap handled jar (Haury,1965;185).

For most types in this guide, there is a "key differences" section. It lists the most common and obvious difference(s) for the type. This section describes what is different or unique for the type compared to others. But keep in mind, there are always exceptions to the rules. For example, while it is true many Santa Cruz and Rillito types have finer fine line work than other types, (which often is the key hallmark for defining the type), not all do. Larger vessels tend to have larger line work. There are also crude examples in just about all types and phases of most all prehistoric cultures. Perhaps, from the result of “beginner potters” or a potter rushing to fill a “large order”. 

Gila Red bowls often have smudged interiors and these two varieties (smudged and non-smudged) have been described as different types, Gila Red, and Gila Smudged (Haury:1945;81). This can be confusing because Gila Plain is often smudged.  In this guide "Gila Red Smudged" and "Gila Plain Smudged" are listed as varieties of Gila Red and Gila Plain.

In this guide I only try to list types and/or varieties that have technical attributes observable on the surface of vessels, not so much the interiors or paste recipes. Wood lists no less than twelve varieties of Gila Red based primarily on temper, (paste) (Wood,1987;166). Quite often temper is not easily identifiable and one would need a micro-scope or magnifying glass and familiarity of mineralogy to determine most of these varieties. You would also need to break a whole vessel to see the temper of many types or varieties.

Only the types or varieties that I have seen with easily observable temper on the surface of vessels, will most likely be described or mentioned in this guide. Often vessels are described with having no mica in the temper, however if you slightly move the sherd or vessel at angles under bright light, you may see very fine mica particles shining.  Usually the only time I describe a type or variety as having mica or any other temper, is if you can easily see it on the surface without having to hunt for it.

When it comes to ceramics I am personally a "lumper" and a "splitter".  I am a "splitter" in the sense that if the primary background, or any paint color of a vessel was intended technologically to be different from other types, then, in my opinion, it is a different type, and should be described as such no matter how rare (Emil Haury named Sweetwater Polychrome based on 6 sherds and 1 vessel, Haury 1976;219-220). I am also a "lumper" in the sense that I believe in the type-variety concept, especially when it comes to "temper-types". "Temper-types" is a label I have given to "types" that were named based on the type of temper used in the paste, even though the exterior colors, styles, and forms are exactly the same as a broader common type. I believe in describing these "temper types" as varieties of existing types, however I do not believe they should be described as separate wares and types. Doing so only confuses the picture.

Doing a petrographic analysis on sherds from different sites are bound to reveal site to site differences.  For example, one site may use an average of 60% crushed quartz as a temper, while another site a mile away, may use an average of 20%.  Is this a valid reason to name a new type and ware? Not only are there likely to be site to site differences, but there is also likely to be potter to potter differences at the same site.  If there were several potters at a site, there may have been personal preferences as to what types or amounts of temper used. I am reasonably sure of this as I have had the pleasure of doing some excavating on a privately owned Tanque Verde Phase site near Tucson. After cleaning and studying thousands of Tanque Verde decorated sherds, I noticed that most had sand temper, many had Biotite (gold mica) temper, and many had Muscovite (silver mica) temper. At first, I thought the mica-tempered varieties were tradewares, but then I recalled some of the stone artifacts we found on floors of rooms and realized that they seemed to be too soft to have been used as abraders or polishers.  Many of the stones had been ground or abraded on one or more sides, and concluded they possibly were being crushed and/or ground for temper used  in pottery manufacture.  Some of these soft stones had much Biotite (gold mica) and others had much Muscovite (silver mica). Using sand temper would require less labor than having to crush or grind stone with gold or silver mica in it, however vessels with much gold or silver mica will sparkle beautifully outdoors in the sun. My conclusion is that potters occasionally added gold or silver mica to the temper for decorative purposes. Tanque Verde ceramics tempered with Biotite have been described and named Pantano Red-on-Brown (Hayden, Danson, Wallace, 1957;224-226), however, Pantano Red-on-Brown hasn't seemed to gain any acceptance within the archaeological community.

Archaeologists in the past have shared some of these views.   For example, George S. Cattanach Jr. wrote this when describing Chapin Black-on-White in the Mesa Verde area:

"La Plata Black-on-White, Lino Black-on-Gray, and Chapin Black-on-White are essentially one pottery type, with Chapin being the local manifestation.  Types of paint and temper definitely vary, at least in proportion, from one type to another, but all are Basketmaker III pottery types which undoubtedly extend into Pueblo I.  There may be subtle temporal and spatial differences between the types, but these should not be allowed to obscure the broad relationship.". Later in the same paragraph he also states: "I feel that adding another name to the literature confuses the picture and would much prefer to call this pottery La Plata or Lino (redefined).  If it is necessary to separate the local development from that found elsewhere in the San Juan area, I would prefer to call it La Plata Black-on-White: Chapin Variety.". He goes on to say: "A similar situation exists with many other pottery types, both black-on-white and plain or corrugated, where the broad relationships are being buried under a mass of regional names.  The local names are necessary for analysis, but surely there must be a better way of handling the taxonomy than by merely adding one name after another for every minor although perhaps significant variation of a "basic" type found.  The type-variety concept offers a possible way out, but many archeologists have objected to tying up the word "variety" in this manner, and thus effectively deleting a rather useful word from the archeological vocabulary.  It would seem to be a step in the right direction, however.  It is certainly useful to be able to designate regional varieties, such as Mesa Verde and Chaco, but of course the designation does not have to be made part of the type name.  In any case, the type descriptions need to be expanded to include these regional variants." (Cattanach Jr. 1980;210).



This page last revised: 08/10/2012

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