Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeGreater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)Northern Rio Grande White WareRed Mesa Black-on-white (NRG)

Type Name: Red Mesa Black-on-white (NRG)

Period: 875 A.D. - 1050 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande Valley
Branch: Northern Rio Grande
Tradition: Greater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)
Ware: Northern Rio Grande White Ware

First posted by Dean Wilson 2012

The earliest pottery from sites over much of the Northern Rio Grande was described by Mera (1935) as Chaco 2 Black-on-white and conforms to later descriptions of Red Mesa Black-on-white (Gladwin 1945). The inclusion of descriptions and discussion of Red Mesa Black-on-white here with Northern Rio Grande types is somewhat problematic given that the great majority of pottery from sites in the Northern Rio Grande region assigned to this type may not have been locally produced in the Northern Rio Grande region. The appearance of Red Mesa Black-on-white appears to be part of a much larger phenomenon involving the sudden appearance of Red Mesa over vast areas of the Southwest. At present it appears likely that most of the pottery from sites in the Northern Rio Grande region probably originated in areas in the eastern part of the Colorado Plateau to the west. Still, given the importance of Red Mesa in the identification of the earliest ceramic components in the Northern Rio Grande and other areas of the Eastern Pueblo, its influence on and connection with later Northern Rio Grande white ware pottery, a description and of this type is included here.

Pastes and decorations of pottery from the Northern Rio Grande are very similar if not identical to that noted in forms known to have been produced in the Cibola region (Lang 1982; Mera 1935; McNutt 1969; Dittert and Plog 1980; Peckham 1992). Temper in Red Mesa Black-on-white from this region includes sandstone, sand, sand and sherd or sherd. The presence of examples tempered with very fine sandstone and silt is important in that it could represent a distinct variety from the eastern Colorado Plateau has well as providing a link to later Rio Grande forms containing numerous silt or fine sand fragments. Paste is hard and crumbly and light in color, particularly compared to later Rio Grande types. Bowls tend to slightly outnumber jar forms. Other forms include pitchers, seed jars, and gourd dippers. Rims are rounded to tapered and solidly painted. Decorations are always applied in a mineral pigment and common red, red brown, or black. Designs styles noted on examples of Red Mesa Black-on-white from sites in the Northern Rio Grande region are typical of those noted for forms assigned to this type distributed across the northern Southwest. A number of distinct design motifs often occur together on the same vessel or sherd. Design elements commonly associated with this type include a series of thin parallel lines, wavy or squiggle lines, pendant dots, ticked lines, rick rack, scrolls, stepped triangles, and ribbons of squiggle hachure. A quartered or banded layout is often represented, consisting of a series of geometrical opposing sections in which combinations of design elements are repeated. These sections are usually divided by a series of narrow lines.

While pottery assigned here to Red Mesa Black-on-white from the Cibola area has long been known to date from the late ninth century to the early eleventh century, the presence of assemblages with Red Mesa Black-on-white and associated utility ceramic has been used to identify the earliest spans of the Late Developmental period into a Red Mesa phase, which was initially assumed to date mainly in eleventh century (Cordell 1979; McNutt 1969). The view that Red Mesa Black-on-white from the Rio Grande region largely dated after A.D. 1000 resulted from the commonly held view that developments in the Rio Grande lagged behind those in the Chaco region to the west. Part of this perception was based on tree-ring from LA 835 or the Pojoaque Grant site. More recent interpretations of these dates seems seem to indicate dates as early as the late ninth century, and the span of dates seems to be quite similar to that noted for sites in Chaco area, and cast doubt on earlier notions of culture lag (Wiseman 1995).

Cordell, Linda S.
1979 A Cultural Resource Overview of the Middle Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico. Submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Washington,

Dittert, Alfred E., and Fred Plog
1980 Generations in Clay; Pueblo Pottery of the American Southwest. Northland Press, Flagstaff.

Gladwin, Harold S.
1945 The Chaco Branch: Excavation at White Mound and in the Red Mesa Valley. Medallion Papers 33, a Pueblo, Globe, Arizona.

Lang, Richard W.
1982 Transformation in White Ware Pottery of the Rio Grande. In Southwestern Ceramics: A Comparative Review, edited by A. Schroeder, pp. 153–200. Arizona Archaeologist No. 15. Phoenix.

Mera, H. P.
1935 Ceramic Clues to the Prehistory of North Central New Mexico. Laboratory of Anthropology Technical Series Bulletin No. 8. Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Wilson, C. Dean
2013 The Gradual Development of Systems of Pottery Production and Distribution Across Northern Rio Grande Landscapes. In From Mountaintop to Valley Bottom; Understanding Past Land Use in the Northern Rio Grande Valley, New Mexico, edited by Bradley J. Vierra, pp 161-197. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

Windes, Thomas C.
1977 Typology and Technology of Anasazi Ceramics. In Settlement and Subsistence Along the Lower Chaco River, edited by C. Reher, pp 270-369. University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Wiseman, Reggie N.
1995 Reassessment of the Dating of the Pojoaque Grant Site (LA 835): A Key Site of the Rio Grande Developmental Period. In Of Pots and Rocks: Papers in Honor of A. Helene Warren, edited by M. S. Duran and D. T. Kirkpatrick, pp. 237–248. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque

2014 Introduction to Mera’s “Ceramic Clues to the Prehistory of North Central New Mexico. In Since Mera: The Original Eleven Bulletins, With Essays and Opinions Derived from Recent Research, edited by E. J Brown, R. N. Wiseman and Rory P. Gauthier, pp 197-223. Archaeological Society of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Wiseman, Regge N., and Bart Olinger
1991 Initial Production of Painted Pottery in the Rio Grande: The Perspective from LA 835, The Pojoaque Grant Site. In Puebloan Past and Present: Papers in Honor of Stewart Peckham, edited by M. S. Duran and D. T. Kirkpatrick, pp 209-217. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico 17, Albuquerque.

Related Photos

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl sherds.

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl sherds

Red Mesa Black -on-white bowl sherds

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl sherds

Red Mesa Black-on-white sherds

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl sherds

Red Mesa Black-on-white jar sherd

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl

Red Mesa Black-on-white bowl sherds