Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Eastern (Mountain) AnasaziUpper San JuanUpper San Juan Gray WareSambrito Utility

Type Name: Sambrito Utility

Period: 200 A.D. - 700 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)
Branch: Eastern (Mountain) Anasazi
Tradition: Upper San Juan
Ware: Upper San Juan Gray Ware

First posted by Dean Wilson 2012

Sambrito Brown was defined by Eddy (1961). Sambrito Brown or Utility was defined based on pottery recovered from very early sites excavated during the Navajo Reservoir Project that were quite distinct from the plain utility wares recovered from slightly later sites. This pottery was recovered from sites dating as early as A.D. 300 and as late as A.D. 700 and initially formed the basis for recognition of two types (Dittert and others 1963; Eddy 1961). The earliest of these was labeled as Los Pinos Brown and was attributed to pottery from components thought to date prior to A.D. 400. Sambrito Brown was assigned to similar pottery from sites thought to date to the Sambrito phase or from about A.D. 400 to 700. Sambrito Utility appears to be a very long-lived type occurring as the sole pottery at transitional Basketmaker sites and with other pottery types at Basketmaker III sites within the Upper San Juan region. Sites yielding Sambrito Utility sherds and vessels do not appear to be particularly common anywhere but are scattered throughout much of the Northern San Juan basin. The assignment of ceramics to these two different types appears to have been solely based on the postulated date of the sites from which they were recovered. While some paste and vessel form differences may exist between the ceramics recovered from sites dating to these two phases, it appears that such distinctions cannot be made consistently during the routine analysis of sherd collections, and thus these ceramics should be placed into a single type described here as Sambrito Utility (Wilson and Blinman 1993). Sambrito Utility defines the earliest ceramics occurring over much of the Northern San Juan Basin (Reed and Goff 2007; Wilson and Blinman 1991; Wilson 1989).

Sambrito Utility represents one of several forms of a simple but consistently fired pottery found across much of the Colorado Plateau, and while very simple it appears to be a product of an established pottery tradition rather than an experimental technology (Reed and others 2000). The paste is soft and silty, and sherds tend to break, spall, and crumble easily. Paste cores are usually dark gray with occasional dark brown or reddish streaks. Paste color is almost always dark red when refired in an oxidizing atmosphere. Pastes are often vitrified and glassy in appearance. All of these features point to the use of poor quality alluvial clays. Sherd and vessel surface colors can be gray, dark gray, brown, or red. Color variation is often evident on larger sherds and vessels, consisting of gray, brown, or red patches. Temper tends to consist of uniformly sized and numerous rounded quartz sand grains and occasional small angular igneous rock. These grains range from clear to dark gray in color. It is likely that most of the sand and rock inclusions occur naturally in the clay sources used in manufacture of Sambrito Utility. Painted designs and textured treatments are absent. Surfaces are normally well-smoothed and are often polished, but the degree of polish or smoothness may vary significantly in different portions of an individual vessel or sherd. Sambrito Utility from the earliest components may exhibit a higher degree of polish than those from later components. Vertically oriented smoothing or polishing streaks are sometimes present. While both the interior and exterior surfaces of jars may be polished, exteriors usually exhibit a greater degree of polishing. Likewise, bowl interiors sometimes display a higher degree of polish. In examples exhibiting a lower degree of polishing, the surface is often rough and pitted, with temper sometimes protruding through the surface. Sambrito Utility vessels tend to be irregular and poorly shaped when compared to later forms. Vessel size is often relatively small, and sherds are thick relative to vessel size. A wide range of forms are represented and include necked jars, seed jars, bowls, spouted dippers, and pipes. Although jar size is variable, most jars are small when compared to later forms. Jars often have flat bases, exhibit fairly short and distinctive necks, and rim diameter is relatively narrow. Necks may flare outward toward the rim, are occasionally straight, or may flare inward. Although many of these vessels resemble ollas in overall shape, their small size and the relatively weak and porous paste quality would have made them unsuited for long term water storage. Evidence of sooting is common and indicates some use for cooking.

Dittert, Alfred E., Frank W. Eddy and Beth Dickey
1963 Evidence of Early Ceramic Phases in the Navajo Reservoir District. El Palacio 70 (1-2) 5-12.

Eddy, Frank W.
1961 Excavation at Los Pinos Phase Sites in the Navajo Reservoir District. Museum of New Mexico Papers in Anthropology 4, Santa Fe.

Reed, Lori C., Dean Wilson, and Kelley Hays-Gilipin
2000 From Brown to Gray; The Origins of Ceramic Technology in the Northen Southwest. In Foundations of Anasazi Culture: The Basketmaker-Pueblo Transition, edited by P.F. Reed, pp. 19-45. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Reed, Lori and Joel Goff
2007 A Field Guide to Upper San Juan Anasazi and Navajo Pottery. Prepared for the NMAC Ceramic Workshop, Farmington District Office,Document on file, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington.

Wilson, C. Dean
1989 Sambrito "Brown" from Site LA 4169, A Description and Evaluation. Pottery Southwest 16(2):4-5.

Wilson, C. Dean, and Eric Blinman
1993 Upper San Juan Ceramic Typology. Office of Archaeological Studies Archaeology Notes 80, Santa Fe.

Related Photos

Sambrito Utillity jar sherd

Sambrito Utility jar

Sambrito Utiity jar sherds