Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleySouthern Rio Grande

Branch Name: Southern Rio Grande

First posted C. Dean Wilson 2014

The separation of some areas of the Rio Grande into a southern branch is somewhat arbitrary but seems to be reflected by distributions of pottery types commonly associated with different ware groups, although the nature and boundaries of such distributions vary for different periods. During early periods, differences in pottery associated with the more southern areas of the drainages of the Rio Grande appear to reflect strong influences, particularly as indicated by the dominance of brown utility wares of Mogollon groups and in some classification schemes these areas are assigned to regions of the Mogollon culture area. Trends including the dominance of Mogollon brown ware and the very early nature of and the sequences of change noted for white ware pottery were different than that noted in areas to the north and resulted in Mera (1935) including the pottery produced in these areas in a Southern Division in his description and synthesis of early Rio Grande pottery types. This area was differentiated from areas to the north by the very early and long production of white ware pottery that included forms defined as San Marcial Black-on-white and Socorro Black-on-white. The earliest periods of production of ceramics in the Rio Grande seem to have been limited to areas south of La Bajada or the Santa Fe River. While pottery assemblages associated with most of these areas was dominated by brown ware types, those from the northernmost areas where these early white ware occur are dominated by gray ware types.

By the Classic period, the division of areas of the northern versus southern Rio Grande based on utility ware and white ware styles, is largely replaced by boundaries associated with the production of biscuit wares and Jemez Black-on-white versus that noted for the very widely distributed glaze ware types. Groups who produced glaze wares appear to have entered the Middle Rio Grande sometime during the thirteenth century after which locally produced decorated white ware types were replaced by glaze ware types. This intrusion appears to initially reflect the movement of Keres-speaking groups from areas of the Colorado Plateau to the west, although the production of glaze ware pottery appears to have quickly spread to Tano, Southern Tiwa, and Piro speakers. The decision of some groups to produce glaze wares and others to not to seems to be at least partially linked to identity, and thus may provide a useful although imperfect boundary for the identification of potential boundaries groups producing different decorated ware forms in different areas of the Rio Grande.

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