Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Central AnasaziNorthern San JuanNorthern San Juan White WareMcElmo Black-on-white

Type Name: McElmo Black-on-white

Period: 1075 A.D. - 1250 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)
Branch: Central Anasazi
Tradition: Northern San Juan
Ware: Northern San Juan White Ware


First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

McElmo Black-on-white was named by Gladwin (1934) for pottery earlier described by Kidder (1924) as Proto-Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Few types have been subject to as much variation in assignment conventions as McElmo Black-on-white. Design elements overlap to some degree with both Mancos Black on white and Mesa Verde Black-on-white, and few pure McElmo Black-on-white assemblages have been described in the literature (Abel 1955; Breternitz and others 1955; Oppelt 1992; Reed 1958; Rohn 1977; Wilson and Blinman 1995). A greater consensus exists as to the distinctions between Mancos Black-on-white and McElmo Black-on-white than to the distinctions between McElmo Black on-white and Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Some researchers refuse to segregate the latter two types (Rohn 1971 and Reed 1958). The basis for this difficulty is that McElmo Black-on-white designs are transitional between Mancos Black-on-white and Mesa Verde Black-on-white. McElmo Black-on-white is similar but not identical to Flagstaff Black-on-white for the Kayenta tradition, Nava Black-on-white for the Chuska tradition, and Chaco McElmo Black-on-white for the Cibola tradition. McElmo Black-on-white is largely associated with early Pueblo III occupations although it can occur in assemblages spanning a period as long as A.D. 1075 to A.D. 1300. This type is the dominant white ware on sites dating between A.D. 1150 and the beginning of the thirteenth century (Wilson and Blinman 1995).

McElmo Black-on-white vessels are generally well polished, slipped, and often have a pearly white surface. Vessel walls are slightly thicker than earlier Mesa Verde white wares, and rim treatment differs. Rims are thick, rounded to flat, and are frequently decorated with dots or ticked lines. Bowls are the most common vessel form, but dippers, ollas and mugs are also present in most assemblages. The great majority of McElmo Black-on-white found in the Mesa Verde region has organic paint, and it has been common practice to distinguish between McElmo Black-on-white and earlier Mancos Black-on-white on the basis of organic versus mineral paint. This convention is not always useful as mineral paint dominates Pueblo III assemblages in the bean field and canyon country along the Utah-Colorado border.

McElmo Black-on-white is best distinguished and characterized on the basis of its stylistic attributes. Also, McElmo Black-on-white often exhibits slightly less precise execution than Mesa Verde Black-on-white, and this has led to another unfortunate convention of distinguishing these two types on degree of sloppiness. Although the generalization has some validity, both types display varying degrees of precision, and distinctions between the two should not be made solely on the basis of design execution. McElmo Black-on-white decorations are almost always organized in a single painted band design. Elements making up these designs are fairly broad and simple. A common example is a series of broad lines either in bands parallel to the rim or in rectilinear panels. Other designs include bands filled with straight hachure, triangles, stepped triangles, dots, diamonds, and ticked lines. Such designs within bands are generally more sparsely filled than in Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Framing lines may be present, but they almost always consist of a single line. When multiple lines are present, all lines are of uniform thickness (usually thin) rather than the multiple thicknesses of the framing lines in Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Multiple framing lines on McElmo Black-on white are a late design innovation that is transitional to Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Isolated design elements or simple combinations may be painted on bowl exteriors, but exterior designs tend to be quite rare.

References:
Abel, Leland J.
1955 San Juan Red Ware, Mesa Verde Gray Ware, Mesa Verde White Ware and San Juan White Ware, Pottery Types of the Southwest: Wares 5A, 10A, 10B, 12A. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series 3B, Flagstaff.

Breternitz, David A., Arthur H. Rohn, Jr., and Elizabeth A. Morris
1974 Prehistoric Ceramics of the Mesa Verde Region. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series 5, Flagstaff.

Gladwin, Winifred and Harold S. Gladwin.
1934 A Method for the Designation of Cultures and Their Variants. Medallion Papers No. 15, Globe.

Kidder, Alfred V.
1924 An Introduction to the Study of Southwestern Archaeology. Papers of the Phillips Academy Southwester Expedition, No. 1, Yale University Press, New Haven.

Oppelt, Norman T.
1992 Earth Water Fire: The Prehistoric Pottery of Mesa Verde. Johnson Books, Boulder.

Reed, Erik K.
1958 Excavation in Mancos Canyon, Colorado. University of Utah Anthropological Papers, No. 35. Salt Lake City.

Rohn, Arthur H.
1971 Mug House. Archaeological Research Series 7 D. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Washington, D.C.

1977 Cultural Change and Continuity on Chapin Mesa. Regents Press, Lawrence.

Wilson, C. Dean, and Eric Blinman
1995 Ceramic Types of the Mesa Verde Region. In Archaeological Pottery of Colorado: Ceramic Clues to the Prehistoric and Protohistoric Lives of the State's Native Peoples, edited by R.H. Brunswig, B. Bradley, and S.M. Chandler, pp. 33-88. Colorado Council of Archaeologists Occasional Papers 2, Denver.




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McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white dipper

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white effigy

McElmo Black-on-white bowl sherds

McElmo Black-on-white bowl

McElmo Black-on-white dipper

McElmo Black-on-white bowl sherd

McElmo Black-on-white dipper

Early Pueblo III assemblage with McElmo Black-on-white