Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)Southwest Apachean

Branch Name: Southwest Apachean

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

All the Apachean pottery from archaeological sites in New Mexico are assigned here to a Southwest Apachean branch that seems to reflect forms that were ultimately derived or influenced by various Ancestral Puebloan groups who occupied different areas of the Southwest. In contrast, pottery found in Apachean sites in areas of the Great Plains may exhibit characteristics reflecting influences from a greater "Plains Woodland" tradition. An example of such pottery include Dismal River Gray Ware types defined for sites in Nebraska and surrounding states which tend exhibit evidence of cordmarked impressions resulting from the paddle and anvil technique common in Plains pottery (Brunswig 1995). In the scheme employed here, such pottery would be assigned to a Plains Apache Branch, although these are not included in this web-site given the apparent absence of this pottery in New Mexico.

Pottery assigned to traditions defined for the Southwest Apache branch are further assigned to different traditions based on differences in pottery produced by groups occupying different areas the Southwest. The pottery produced by different groups may have been ultimately influenced by requirements resulting from the overall subsistence strategy of different Apachean groups, the availability and use of different clay and temper in different provinces of the Southwest, and long-term contact and trade with different pottery-making groups. While the overall adaptive strategy varied for different Apachean groups, it is likely that all the different Apachean groups initially practiced a similar nomadic lifestyle, and were largely dependent on hunting, foraging, and trading.

Similarities in Apachean pottery produced over a wide area often reflect a preference for moderately large jar forms with thin walls, usually with dark gray pastes, and limited decorative treatment. Pottery found over wide areas and associated with different Apache groups exhibiting this combination of characteristics has sometimes been described as Quemado Gray Ware (Baugh and Eddy 1987). The strongest divergence from this basic technology is reflected by the use of highly micaceous clays by Jicarilla potters and the production of very small amounts of painted vessels by Navajo potters. The strategy employed here borrows from that terminology presented by Baugh and Eddy, although Quemado Gray Ware attributed to both Navajo and Apache groups is separated into two groups. This results in the recognition of three separate ceramic traditions in New Mexico that seem to coincide with the territory of historically documented Navajo, Jicarilla Apache, and Western and Southern Apache groups.

Related Traditions