Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)Southwest ApacheanNavajo

Tradition Name: Navajo

Posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Pottery forms long known to have been produced by Navajo groups exhibit some traits similar to those noted in examples known to have been produced by surrounding Pueblo groups and others that seem to be unique to the Navajo. Unlike other Apachean pottery traditions, Navajo pottery includes both gray ware and painted forms. Similarities of gray utility pottery produced by Navajo and Apache groups to the east and west have sometimes resulted in their grouped into Quemada Gray Wares. Decorated wares are reflected by a distinct combination of surface manipulations and decoration that appear to have been borrowed from a number different Pueblo decorated traditions, but combined to produce distinctly Navajo pottery.

While pottery making was originally thought to have been introduced to the Navajo by Pueblo Refugees fleeing the Spanish during the Pueblo revolt (Baugh and Eddy 1987; Carlson 1965 Brugge 1982), tree-ring dates and other evidence indicate the production of gray utility wares date by at least the A.D. 1540s and decorated and decorated pottery began to be produced sometime during the early seventeenth century (Reed and Reed 1992; Wishusen 2010). These dates combined evidence indicating the continuation of a distinct process of manufacture of Navajo pottery as compared to Pueblo pottery seem to indicate a technology that appears to have developed prior to entry of the Navajo into the Southwest.

While Navajo component have been divided into several periods, most of which are dominated by Dinetah Gray exhibiting similar characteristics. The earliest (Dinetah and Gobernador) of these phases are best known from sites in Upper San Juan or Dinetah regions while later phases reflect a westward movement to areas currently occupied by the Navajo, The Dinetah phase is the earliest with a tentative starting date from about AD. 1500 to about A.D. 1650. Dinetah sites are commonly represented by a diverse range of sites which include lithic and ceramic scatters and forked-stick hogans which have been interpreted as reflecting generalized Athapaskan life ways rather than distinctly Navajo occupations (Brown 1996; Wilshusen 2010). Pottery from Dinetah phase components are overwhelmingly dominated by Dinetah gray but also commonly include Puebloan types such as Jemez Black-on-white and glaze ware types (Reed and Reed 1996; Wilson). Gobernador Polychrome may be present in assemblages dating to the very late part of this phase but is extremely rare.

The Gobernador phase dates from about A.D.1650 to 1780 and represents a time of continual interaction with Ute, Pueblo, Apache, Comanche, Genizaro, and Spanish groups. Ceramics from assemblages dating to this phase are still dominated by Dinetah Gray but commonly include Gobernador Polychrome. The Governador phase is commonly associated with Pueblitos which were originally interpreted as reflecting influences by Pueblo groups seeking refuge from the Spanish after the revolt, but are now more commonly interpreted as defensive fortifications resulting from increased encroachment by the Ute into Navajo Territory. Intrusive types include Jemez Black-on-white and matte painted Pueblo types, although glaze ware types may occur in components dating to the early part of this phase.

The Cabezon refers to the span immediately after their the westward movement out of the Upper San Juan into their present homeland from about 1780 to 1860. The modern or reservation period reflects period from their removal to their removal and return to their present homeland.

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