Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Central AnasaziNorthern San JuanNorthern San Juan Gray WareTwin Trees Gray

Type Name: Twin Trees Gray

Period: 500 A.D. - 700 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)
Branch: Central Anasazi
Tradition: Northern San Juan
Ware: Northern San Juan Gray Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Twin Trees was defined by O’Bryan (1950) to describe early polished gray wares recovered from the Basketmaker III pit houses from Step House in Mesa Verde National Park. A description of this type presented by Abel (1955) was slightly modified describing the associated temper as crushed rock rather than sand. Pottery assigned to this type appears to be quite but may be of use in identifying the earliest ceramic components in the Northern San Juan region. While Abel (1955) included Twin Trees Plain as defined by O'Bryan in his original descriptions, this type has seldom been recognized since. Similar pottery that defined during Navajo Reservoir Project in the Upper San Juan region was assigned to Sambrito Utility. Twin Trees Utility is best viewed as one of many spatial variants of an early plain ware technology distributed across the Southwest and seems to represent a utility ware form transitional between early plain brown wares and early unpolished Northern San Juan Gray Wares tempered with crushed igneous rock (Abel 1955).

Although the dating of this type is speculative, Twin Trees Gray was initially described as dating from about A.D. 500 to A.D. 700 (Abel 1955). The small number of dates from sites in the Mesa Verde region seems to support this dating (O’Bryan 1950; Toll and Wilson 2000). Thus far, there appears to be no evidence for the production of ceramics in the Northern San Juan region before A.D. 500, and this relative late date for the appearance of ceramics in the Mesa Verde region may partly explain the low number of sites with Twin Trees Utility and other early ceramic forms. Ceramics from sites dating before A.D. 575 appear to be dominated Twin Trees Utility or related (Sambrito Utility) early ceramic forms. Those dating from A.D. 575 to 700 may contain a mixture of Twin Trees and Basketmaker gray and white ware forms (Toll and Wilson 2001), while the overall frequency of Twin Trees appears to have rapidly declined during this span. So far this type has been noted in sites covering a limited area. Pottery that may be assigned to this type seems to have been noted for sites in Mesa Verde National Park, the La Plata Valley, Mancos Canyon, Yellow Jacket Canyon, and Montezuma Canyon Utah.

Except for temper, characteristics noted for this type are similar to those noted for Sambrito Utility. Vessel surfaces are always unpainted and are not slipped. Polished surfaces are often streaky with small unpolished areas resulting from the unevenness of the surface. Despite the polishing, surfaces are fairly rough and uneven; indicating that polishing was done while water content of the clay was still relatively high. Surface color may be white, gray, dark gray or brown and is often highly variable across the same vessel or sherd; cores are often dark gray to brown in color. Pastes tend to be soft and silty. Firing atmospheres appear to have been poorly controlled at a low temperature. Vessel forms include seed jars, ollas, cooking/storage jars, dippers, and bowls. Vessels tend to be fairly small and thick. Fugitive red pigment may be present, but is very rare.

Abel, Leland J.
1955 San Juan Red Ware, Mesa Verde Gray Ware, Mesa Verde White Ware and Sand Juan White Ware, Pottery Types of the Southwest: Wares 5A, 10A, 10B, 12A. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series 3B, Flagstaff.

O'Bryan, Deric
1950 Excavations in Mesa Verde National Park. Medallion Papers, No. 39, Gila Pueblo, Globe, Arizona.

Toll, H. Wolcott, and C. Dean Wilson
2000 Locational, Architectural, and Ceramic Trends in the Basketmaker III Occupation of the La Plata Valley, New Mexico. In The Foundations of Anasazi Culture: Recent Research into the Basketmaker III Period in the Northern Southwest, edited by P. F. Reed, pp.19-43. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

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

Twin Trees Utility jar sherds