Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Central AnasaziNorthern San JuanNorthern San Juan Red WareAbajo Red-on-orange

Type Name: Abajo Red-on-orange

Period: 700 A.D. - 850 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)
Branch: Central Anasazi
Tradition: Northern San Juan
Ware: Northern San Juan Red Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Abajo Red-on-orange was named and described by Brew (1942) based on pottery recovered from a large early Pueblo I site on Alkali Ridge. This type represents the earliest painted San Juan Red Ware type, and while it is present in most Early Pueblo I assemblages in the Northern San Juan region, it is most common in early Pueblo I contexts in the western-most localities of the Northern San Juan region (Brew 1946; Hegmon 1995; Hegmon and others 1994; Lucius and Breternitz 1981; Wilson and Blinman 1995). This type first occurs in contexts dating sometime between A.D. 700 and 750, with a slightly earlier initial date in the western portion of the region. Abajo Red on orange is similar although not identical to the earliest painted types produced in the Mogollon region such as Mogollon Red-on- brown. This similarity suggests a relationship between ceramic producing groups in these two widely separated regions, although the nature of this relationship is not well understood. By A.D. 850, Abajo Red on orange was very rare and is assumed to have not been produced.

Abajo Red on orange is characterized by an orange background with red painted designs. The paste usually has a gray core with reddish exteriors. This indicates that, in most cases, the orange surface color resulted from the oxidation of gray but iron rich clay. Slips are present on a minority of examples assigned to this type, but when present are very thin and washy. Vessel forms are dominated by bowls, but other forms include seed jars and pitchers. Painted surfaces are consistently polished, and the red paint seems to be polished into the surface and exhibits little relief (Oppelt 1991). Designs are relatively simple and boldly executed. Design elements include straight lines, wavy lines, triangles, and ticked lines. Design layouts may be bilateral, spiral, all over, and are rarely, banded. Line widths indicate the use of both thick and thin brushes, but thick lines are more prevalent than in later red ware types or contemporary white ware types. Abajo Red-on-orange designs and layouts are similar to early Bluff Black on red designs, and the only distinguishing characteristic is paint color.

In some cases, Abajo Red-on-orange design elements and layouts are executed in both red and black paint on the same vessel, and pottery exhibiting this combination of paint has been described as Abajo Polychrome (Breternitz and others 1974). Sherds of this type are too rare for confident dating, but they occur in late eighth and early ninth century contexts. Abajo Polychrome is presumed to span the transition between Abajo Red-on-orange and Bluff Black on red, and it is extremely rare in all contexts, and thus is best considered as a variety of Abajo Red on orange. Another type recognized in some studies is Abajo Black-on-gray, but pottery placed in this type appear to simply reflect misfired examples of Abajo Red-on-orange or Bluff Black-on-red and should not be considered a separate type or variety.

Breternitz, David A., Arthur H. Rohn, Jr., and Elizabeth A. Morris
1974 Prehistoric Ceramics of the Mesa Verde Region, 2nd ed. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series 5, Flagstaff.

Brew, John O.
1946 Archaeology of Alkali Ridge, Southeastern Utah. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology Vol 21, Harvard University, Cambridge.

Hegmon, Michelle
1995 The Social Dynamics of Pottery Style in the Early Puebloan Southwest. Occasional Papers No. 5, Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez.

Hegmon, Michelle M., Winston Hurst, and James R. Allison
1994 The Local Economy and Regional Exchange: Early Red Ware Production and Distribution in the Northern Southwest. In The Organization of Ceramic Production in the American Soutwest, edited by B. J. Miills and P. L. Crown, pp. 30-62. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Lucius, William A., and David Breternitz
1981 The Current Status of Red Wares in the Mesa Verde Region. In Collected Papers in Honor of Erick Kellerman Reed, edited by A. H. Schroeder, pp. 99-111. Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 6, Albuquerque.

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

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

Abajo Red-on-orange bowl

Abajo Red-on-orange seed jar

Abajo Red-on-orange vessels