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

Type Name: Mesa Verde Black-on-white

Period: 1150 A.D. - 1280 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

Mesa Verde Black-on-white was first defined by Kidder (Kidder 1924). The unique combination of characteristics used to describe this type has since been defined and described by various archaeologists (Abel 1955; Breternitz and others 1974; Oppelt 1992; Reed 1958; Rohn 1971; 1977 Wilson 1995). Mesa Verde Black-on-white represents the last white ware type produced in the Northern San region, and represents the culmination of white ware ceramic technology and decorative conventions in this region. Design styles are somewhat similar but not identical to those noted in late Pueblo III types in other areas the northern Southwest, including Tusayan Black-on-white-for the Kayenta tradition, Crumbled House Black-on-white for the Chuska tradition, and Galisteo Black on white and Santa Fe Black-on-white for the Rio Grande traditions.

Mesa Verde Black-on-white vessels are usually well-polished, and slipped vessels commonly display polished pearly white slips on both surfaces of bowls and jar exteriors. Pastes tend to be dense and hard, and vessels were almost always well-fired in neutral atmosphere. Wall profile may be gray to white and dark cores are fairly common. Vessel walls, especially bowls, are thick as compared to earlier types, and bowl rims are flat and usually decorated with painted ticks, dots, or lines. Vessel forms are dominated by bowls, but dippers, ollas, kiva jars, and mugs commonly occur. Decorations are usually executed in black organic pigments, but areas or tracts where mineral paint were used have been identified including the bean field and canyon country along the Utah-Colorado border as well as a separate area near Aztec, New Mexico.

Designs are usually complex and well executed, but sloppier examples do occur. Two classes of designs are common, and include examples with banded and all over layouts. Banded designs are bracketed by framing lines both above and below the design panel. Single framing lines are usually thick. When more than one framing is present, they are usually of different thicknesses, with the type being relative thick and the bottom lines being relatively thin. Design elements are similar to those of McElmo Black-on- white and bands may be composed of straight hachure, triangles, stepped triangles, dots, diamonds, and ticked lines, but elements are often smaller and combinations are often more intricate and complex than earlier types. All over designs often lack framing lines and elements except for a single thick line near the rim and are arranged so that the entire design field is covered. The design field is partitioned into two, three, or four fields, and each field is filled with similar arrangements of elements. Large curvilinear and rectilinear areas of hachure are more common in all over designs than in band designs. Exterior designs on bowls are common, both as isolated elements and as bands, usually without framing lines. As design layout and organization is very important for the distinction of Mesa Verde Black-on-white sherds, rim sherds are most easily assigned to this type.

While Mesa Verde Black-on-white has been described from sites including the larger villages spread across the Mesa Verde or San Juan Region, it also occurs in Pueblo III sites in Chaco Canyon and elsewhere in the northern Cibola region which may reflect either population movements or exchange ties during the latter spans of the Pueblo III period (Toll and others 1980). The earliest examples of assemblages dominated by Mesa Verde Black-on-white date to about A.D. 1180. Mesa Verde Black on white is the most common white ware in assemblages from sites in the Northern San Juan region after the first decades of the thirteenth century. The last examples of this type date to the abandonment of the Mesa Verde region to the late thirteenth century (Wilson and Blinman 1995).

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.

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

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.

Toll. H. Wolcott, H. Wolcott., Thomas C. Windes, and Peter J. McKenna
1980 Late Ceramic Patterns in Chaco Canyon: The Pragmatics of Modeling Ceramic Exchange. In Models and Methods in Regional Exchange, edited by Robert L. Fry, pp. 95-117. SAA Papers No. 11.

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.




Related Photos

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white mug

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl sherds

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl sherds

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white bowl

Mesa Verde Black-on-white mug

Mesa Verde Black-on-white mug

Mesa Verde Black-on-white kiva jar

Late Pueblo III assemblage with Mesa Verde Black-on-white