Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)Central AnasaziNorthern San JuanNorthern San Juan White WareChapin Black-on-white (Early Style)

Type Name: Chapin Black-on-white (Early Style)

Period: 550 A.D. - 850 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Southern Colorado Plateau (Anasazi)
Branch: Central Anasazi
Tradition: Northern San Juan
Ware: Northern San Juan White Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Chapin Black-on-white was defined by Abel (1955) to distinguish Basketmaker white ware types that had been earlier been assigned to La Plata Black-on-white but displayed tempering material indicative of production in the Mesa Verde or Northern San Juan region. This type has been assigned to white wares produced in the Northern San Juan region that exhibit surface manipulations and painted styles indicative of production during the Basketmaker III and Early Pueblo I period (Breternitz 1974; Oppelt 1992; Reed 1958; Rohn 1977; Wilson and Blinman 1995). Previous definitions of this type seem to have been too broadly defined, particularly for the eastern portion of the Mesa Verde period. As often defined, Chapin Black-on-white is identified by the wide range of styles often characterized by the repetition of widely separated and simple design units. Similar styles are represented by Basketmaker III forms produced over most of the Colorado Plateau and include Lino Black-on-white, La Plata Black-on-white, and Crozier Black-on-white. A review of examples illustrated and described as Chapin Black-on-white indicates a wider range of variation then noted for most other Basketmaker III regional types (Breternitz and others 1974; Oppelt 1992; Rohn 1977).

Chapin Black-on-white as normally defined includes at least two distinct stylistic groupings that are part of a stylistic continuum. This is particularly true for the geographic area spanning from Mesa Verde National Park (O'Bryan 1950; Rohn 1977) and the Valleys of the Totah (Wilson 1996), where there seems to have been a shift in the decoration of white wares often assigned to this type between the late Basketmaker III and early Pueblo I periods. The most obvious attribute distinguishing the two groups is paint type, as mineral paint dominates Basketmaker III assemblages and organic paint dominates Early Pueblo I assemblages in areas of the eastern Northern San Juan region (Wilson 1996). Early forms of Chapin Black-on-white represent the dominant white ware pottery in sites scattered across the Mesa Verde region and are characterized by the presence of Basketmaker III designs usually executed in mineral paint. While both decorated and undecorated surfaces are usually unpolished, Abel (1955) distinguished a polished form which he described as Twin Trees Black-on-white. This type is described as being identical to Chapin Black-on-white except for the presence of a polished surface and is assigned to a slightly earlier beginning date at A.D. 450. While this date is most likely too early for any painted white wares, it is not surprising that the earliest versions of these forms may have tended to be more often polished given evidence in the Chuska Valley that early Anasazi gray and white ware forms directly developed out of polished brown ware forms (Reed and others 2000).

Surfaces noted for the great majority of Chapin Black-on-white from Basketmaker III sites, however, are not slipped or polished. Paste and surface color are highly variable. Temper tends to be more variable than in other Northern San Juan white ware types and includes a range of igneous and sedimentary rock types as well as sherd. Vessel forms usually consist of bowls although seed jars, ollas, and effigies are represented. Bowl exteriors often exhibit fugitive red coatings. Designs often consist of a single line of straight or zigzag lines that run vertically across the vessel. Designs reflect either bold and simple anthromorph or basket derived designs usually consisting of combinations of fine lines and small elements. Painted decorations usually include two or three isolated design units consisting of fairly simple combinations of a limited number of motifs. Lines are thin, and may be straight, bent, ticked, or embellished with triangles. Spaces between lines are often filled with "Z," "I," or dot motifs. Edges of lines are commonly lined with ticked lines, triangles, or flagged triangle. A small circle is sometimes located in the center of the decorative field. Mineral paint may be may be black or reddish in color. Early forms of Chapin Black-on-white produced in some areas of the western San Juan region are sometimes decorated in organic pigment and seems to reflect influences from the Tusayan region (Bond 1985).

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

Bond, Mark C.
1985 White Mesa Ceramics, 1981. In Anasazi Subsistence and Settlement on White Mesa, San Juan County, Utah, by William E. Davis, pp. 189-274. University Press of America, Inc., Landham, MD.

Breternitz, David A., Arthur H. Rohn, Jr., and Elizabeth A. Morris
1974 Prehistoric Ceramics of the Mesa Verde Region. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series 5. Flagstaff.

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

Oppelt, Norman T.
1992 Earth Water Fire: The Prehistoric Pottery of Mesa Verde, Johnson Books, Boulder.

Reed, Erik K.
1958 Excavation in Mancos Canyon, Colorado. University of Utah Anthropological Papers, No. 35, Salt Lake City.

Reed, Lori S., C. Dean Wilson, and Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin
2000 From Brown to Gray: The Origins of Ceramic Technology in the Northern Southwest. In Foundations of Anasazi Culture: The Basketmaker-Pueblo Transition, edited by P.F. Reed, pp, 203-220. The University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City

Rohn, Arthur H.
1977 Cultural Change and Continuity on Chapin Mesa. Regents Press, Lawrence.

Wilson, C. Dean
1996 Ceramic Pigment Distributions and Regional Interaction: A Re-examination of Interpretations in Shepard's "Technology of La Plata Pottery". The Kiva 62(1):83-102.

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

Chapin Black-on-white bowl

Chapin Black-on-white bowl

Chapin Black-on-white bowl

Chapin Black-on-white bowl

Chapin Black-on-white bowl sherds

Basketmaker III assemblage with Chapin Black-on-white

Basketmaker III assemblage with Chapin Black-on-white

Chapin Black-on-white bowls showing a range of styles

Chapin Black-on-white bowl sherds

Chapin Black-on-white bowl sherd