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There seems to be much confusion among archaeologists as to what to name ceramics produced during the transition period of Late Rincon and Early Tanque Verde Phases from in and around the Tucson basin. Transitional pottery is described as having various diagnostic traits from two time periods or phases. These types are made when one time period or phase “transfers” into another.

Greenleaf describes these ceramics as early Tanque Verde, and yet describes others as Topawa (Tucson variety), and yet others as Late Rincon (Greenleaf 1975:52,54,60). Deaver describes these ceramics as Rincon Style C (Deaver 1984:262). Gregonis is calling to name these ceramics Cortaro (Gregonis 1997:26).

Wallace has divided the Sedentary Period into five different sub-phases, these are: Early Rincon, Middle Rincon 1, Middle Rincon 2, Middle Rincon 3, and Late Rincon, and has consequently divided Rincon Red-on-Brown pottery thus far into nine different sub-types. These are: Rillito/Early Rincon, Early Rincon, Early Rincon/Middle Rincon 1, Middle Rincon 1, Middle Rincon 2, Middle Rincon 3, Middle Rincon 3/Late Rincon, Late Rincon, and Late Rincon/Early Tanque Verde (Wallace 1995:301). No attempt will be made here at this time to try and describe these divisions, or to explain how these sub-types are recognizably different from one another. Wallace also writes of possibly splitting his Late Rincon sub-phase and possibly designating a Cortaro Phase (Wallace 1995:802).

Beckwith wrote: “Although Tanque Verde bowls are typically decorated on the exterior, many interior-decorated Tanque Verde bowls have been noted at sites throughout the Tucson Basin. The occurrence of interior-decorated Tanque Verde bowls is problematic because (1) they are relatively rare, (2) there is a problem sorting them from late Rincon Red-on-Brown, and (3) they are not easily identifiable in sherd form.” Later in the same paragraph, Beckwith also wrote: “Interior decorated vessels and sherds, though stylistically Tanque Verde in design, were identified as Rincon unless it was determined that the vessel form was the large, sub hemispherical bowl” (Ravesloot 1987:208). This would be the equivalent of identifying Rincon exterior painted cauldrons as Tanque Verde because of the exterior decoration.

Deaver writes of a partial Tanque Verde bowl that had an exterior decoration that, “resembles Rincon Style C, and if it were on the interior of a bowl, the vessel could have been assigned to that type.” (Deaver 1984; 331).

Kelly wrote; “Harold Gladwin envisaged a phase designated as Cortaro which would bridge the gap between the more or less curvilinear style of Rincon and the essentially angular treatment of Tanque Verde exterior ornamentation. Hypothetically, this would be an interior decorated bowl, its design verging on the Tanque Verde angular.” (Kelly 1978;47). A few key points to explain is that these “hypothetical”, “Cortaro”, “interior decorated bowls”, should have a design “verging” on the “Tanque Verde angular”. This means that most of these bowls should have “curves” and “angles” in the same design. A lot of bowls that I see described as this type, including the “Cortaro Red-on-Brown” bowl described by Kelly:1978, (Fig 4.26), is all “angles” and no “curves”; and we now know that Tanque Verde potters commonly made interior decorated shallow bowls. Later, in the same paragraph, Kelly also wrote; “However at the University Ruin, near Tucson, Emil Haury found a considerable quantity of material that answers these theoretical demands. There, however, the Cortaro type occurs later than our Tanque Verde, in association with Polychrome; hence, it must be regarded as derivative of Tanque Verde rather than antecedent.” (Kelly 1978;48).

This author is not trying to confuse the reader, rather merely pointing out the
confusion. It seems that many Early Tanque Verde vessels are being typed by many archaeologists as being Late Rincon, Rincon Style C, Topawa (Tucson variety), or Cortaro. These are usually shallow interior decorated Tanque Verde Bowls. I have found that a significant number of shallow Tanque Verde bowls of all sizes, have full primary designs decorated on their interiors, and many have been found in direct association with Sells Redware, and other Classic Period artifacts, as well as the more common deep Tanque Verde bowls with exterior primary decorations.

Although I agree that there is a Late Rincon type, I do not completely agree with several archaeologists descriptions of the type. Occasionally bowls are found with full exterior and interior designs on the same vessel. While many of these bowls are Late Rincon or “transitional”, the ones that have only Tanque Verde designs should be considered only Tanque Verde, especially when they are found in direct association with “normal” classic period ceramics. Many Tanque Verde bowls with primary exterior designs also have rather large interior designs (pendant to the rim) that are not full or primary. Sherds of these bowls are probably mistaken as belonging to bowls believed to have full interior and exterior designs.

Tanque Verde vessels have been described as having “a balance of open space and painted designs” (Heckman 2000:89). While many Tanque Verde vessels have designs that have a balance of open space and design, many have almost no open space. These “busier” designs may be Early Tanque Verde, and on many occasions these ceramics are found in direct association with ceramics that have “open space” designs. Hence, the “busier” designs may be Early Tanque Verde, while the “open space” designs may expand the full range of Early to Late Tanque Verde. This is similar to how Deaver describes Rincon ceramics as styles A, B, and C (Deaver 1984:259-265) Further archaeological work will have to be done to test this Early and Late Tanque Verde theory. Motifs found on Early Tanque Verde vessels undoubtfully were carried over from Rincon times, such as wavy lines, curvilinear and rectilinear scrolls, fringe, life forms and others. Possible “early” Tanque Verde motifs may include vertical and diagonal hatching, and perhaps most small elements. Especially “filler” elements that fill the space that is normally left blank in many Tanque Verde designs.

Deaver states that “The major changes seen in Tanque Verde Red-on-Brown are in fact established in the Sedentary Period” (Deaver 1984;244).

Gregonis points out that a handled plain ware pitcher was found in definite “Cortaro Phase” association (Gregonis 1997;68). Handled pitchers are a diagnostic trait of the classic period as well as Classic shouldered jars, highly polished molded pottery spindle whorls, “lipped” vessels, Sells redware, and possibly all bowls with intentional indented bottoms.

Just because transitional types of ceramics are found, I don’t know if it is necessary to designate a phase as a way to explain them. Transitional ceramics are found in most, if not all, phase endings/beginnings.

Based on my ceramic studies and much of the information available, I agree with Wallace that his Late Rincon sub-phase should be divided (about right in the middle), and that the Tanque Verde Classic Period should be pushed back to an earlier beginning date. Wallace states “As the most important cultural changes seem to have occurred within the Late Rincon subphase, when the subphase can be divided, the division should mark the beginning of the Classic Period.” (Wallace 1995; 802). This would in fact push back the classic period to an earlier beginning date. Wallace’s Chronology chart shows the Classic Period beginning possibly as early as 1100 A.D. (Wallace,1995;465)

Slawson wrote an article titled, “The Classic Period Continental Site, AZ EE:1:32” (Doelle and Fish, 1988;135-144). Slawson writes about radiocarbon dates from features containing Tanque Verde ceramics at this site, and at least two other sites that point to an earlier Classic Period beginning, stating that, “….the time of transition from the preceding Sedentary Period had to have occurred earlier, perhaps around A.D. 1100.” (Doelle and Fish, 1988;142).

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 it is possible to find “transitional” types in direct association with newer or older types. This could certainly lead to a lot of disagreement. I believe this is why Haury’s “Cortaro Type” dated temporally later than Kelly’s Tanque Verde (Kelly, 1978;48). These transitional types are important diagnostically and temporally. I strongly feel that these transitional ceramics overlap Early Tanque Verde Ceramics, and also that many Tanque Verde forms, designs, and motifs date solely to the Tanque Verde subphase of the Classic Period.

Based on all of the above information, it seems logical to believe that the Classic Period began around 1125 A.D. and is the beginning date for Classic Period ceramics in this guide for now. These dates (as well as any information in this guide) may change in the future when, or if enough convincing information comes to surface.

For now, the transitional ceramics will be described as late Rincon or Early Tanque Verde depending on their design and/or form.

Perhaps in the future Archaeologists will prove and demonstrate a "Cortaro" Phase. These transitional ceramics would likely be named "Cortaro", and date from about A.D. 1100 - 1150. Hopefully the description for these vessels will satisfactorily omit Early Tanque Verde vessels, as well as Late Rincon vessels, from being confused with each other.


 

 

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