Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeGreater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)Northern Rio Grande Historic Bichrome - Polychrome WareSakona Black-on-tan - Polychrome

Type Name: Sakona Black-on-tan - Polychrome

Period: 1625 A.D. - 1675 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande Valley
Branch: Northern Rio Grande
Tradition: Greater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)
Ware: Northern Rio Grande Historic Bichrome - Polychrome Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Sakona Polychrome and Black-on-tan were defined by Harlow (1970). These types refer to forms indicative of changes that occurred between the production of Sankawi Black-on cream and Tewa Polychrome as normally defined (Batkin 1987; Harlow 1973; Wilson 2006). Sakona Polychrome reflects a shift toward the first application of red slips on organic painted types produced by Tewa potters in the Northern Rio Grande region sometime during the early or middle seventeenth century. Such changes seem to reflect the merging of decorative conventions and styles noted for glaze ware types and Sankawi Black-on-cream (Snow 1982).

The stylistic transition reflected by pottery assigned to Sankawi Black-on-cream and to Sakona Polychrome involved a few basic changes including the addition of a red slip that was most often applied to rims and the exterior underbody of shouldered bowls. The red slip was sometimes limited to the rim of a bowl or jar. Pastes tend to be hard and compact with a fine and grainy texture. These qualities seem to reflect both the use new clay sources as well as higher firing temperatures, and follow a pattern first begun with the manufacture of Sankawi Black-on-cream and Potsuwi’i Polychrome (Harlow 1973). Most of the vessel is covered by a white to cream slip that is sometimes crazed. The light slip may display horizontal polishing marks. Unslipped areas are well smoothed and polished. Sakona Polychrome slip colors range from cream to light buff and sometimes an almost white slip. The slip is similar to that described for Sankawi Polychrome and covers all but the red slipped areas of most bowls and jars. The red slip may occur on the rim and/or the underbody of bowls (Harlow 1973). Sakona Polychrome is tempered with fine tuff similar to that noted in other early historic types produced in northern Tewa villages.

Pastes are often tan with gray cores. The interior of bowls is often divided into several segments, each with an embellished diagonal line. Multiple framing lines are also common (Harlow 1973). Bowls commonly exhibit a sharp keel around the lower part of the exterior. Jars are characterized by designs over most of the neck, as well as multiple framing lines. In most of my analysis pottery from sites dating to the early Colonial period, Sakona Black-on-tan, as described by (Harlow 1973), was seldom used, as pottery displaying characteristics sometimes attributed to this type was often placed into a late form of Sankawi Black-on-cream. Early slipped forms, without the specific patterns of design and slips commonly used to define Tewa Polychrome were assigned to Sakona Polychrome.

Painted decorations are executed in an organic paint over a white to cream slip. Designs can be fairly well executed and tend to be formalized units in these narrow parallel bands. Motifs are similar to those noted in Sankawi Polychrome including thin parallel and zigzag line with pendant dots, solid or hachured triangles, narrow checkerboards, and awanyus. Another trend distinguishing Sakona Polychrome from Sankawi Black-on-cream involves design field framing lines. While multiple upper framing lines are common on Sankawi Black-on-cream shouldered bowl exteriors, in Sakona types single framing lines are more common. Most often, these single framing lines are incorporated into the design field. Shouldered bowl interiors usually display multiple framing lines that are most often placed at or below the bowl shoulder. Sakona Polychrome also appears to reflect subtle shifts in design elements. The design elements noted in Sankawi Black-on cream and Sakona Polychrome are very similar, although there appears to be increasing emphasis on the solid triangle and its elaborations. Lines tend to be thin. Bowl exteriors are often organized in cream colored panels between red slip similar to those noted in Tewa Polychrome. Sakona Polychrome jar forms tend to be rare (Harlow 1973). Shouldered bowls are the most common vessel form represented in Sakona Polychrome. On these forms, interior surfaces exhibited greater design diversity than the interiors. The predominant design elements on both bowl interiors and exteriors consist of thin parallel lines, with dot filling being common. Other design motifs distinct to this type include chevron parallel lines, intersecting lines, and solid diamond, stepped triangles, curved line, leaf, hourglass, hooked line triangle, and feather motifs. The subtle shifts in design elements involved changes in emphasis rather than content. The emphasis on solid triangles, hooks triangles, and elaborations later became the foundations for stylized feathers found in Ogapoge Polychrome and other polychrome types produced in the eighteenth century. Forms noted for Sakona Polychrome include shouldered bowls, and jars. Sakona Polychrome soup plates tend to be rare. Sakona Polychrome shouldered bowls exhibit the sharp, well defined keels (Harlow 1973). Design layouts often consist of a red rim and red bowl underbody with exterior painted decoration confined to a panel bounded by the bowl rim and the bowl keel or shoulder. Bowl interiors are covered with a cream slip, but painted decoration on the interiors is often limited to the bowl area below the keel. Sakona Polychrome jars may exhibit a flared rim and an elongated concave jar neck, both of which are more prominent in this type than in Sankawi Black-on-cream. The polychrome effect is accomplished by the addition of red slip to the jar rim or a wide red band on the vessel underbody.

Sankawi types may sometimes be under-represented in sherd assemblages due to the difficulty in distinguishing jar body sherds of this type from Sankawi Black-on-cream, particularly those not exhibiting polychrome decorations. The difficulty in assessing the validity of Sakona polychrome is largely due to the lack of well-dated assemblages from the late seventeenth century although recent examinations of Early Colonial assemblages in Santa Fe indicate that it can serve as a useful temporal marker. Batkin (1987) has questioned the validity of Sakona Polychrome as a distinct type, suggesting it may simply be a variant of Tewa Polychrome. The transition from Sakona Polychrome to Tewa Polychrome may be subtle but seems to be reflected by three trends. These include the drastic restriction of the design field, increased use of red slip, and subtle changes in the frequency of design elements. If Sakona Polychrome represents a temporally discrete pottery type which began to be produced circa A.D. 1650, then the transition from Sakona Polychrome to Tewa Polychrome signifies a major shift in design organization. The production of pottery that would assigned to this type was fairly short lived, as it seems to have more formalized forms that would be assigned to Tewa Polychrome emerged sometime during the late seventeenth century.

Batkin, Jonathan
1987 Pottery of the Pueblos of New Mexico, 1700 to 1900. Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Colorado Springs.

Harlow, Francis H.

1970 History of Painted Tewa Pottery. In The Pottery of San Ildefonso Pueblo, by K Chapman, pp 37-51, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

1973 Matte Paint Pottery of the Tewa, Keres, and Zuni Pueblos. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

Snow, David H.
1982 The Rio Grande Glaze, Matte Paint, and Plainware Traditions. In Southwestern Ceramics: A Comparative Review, edited by A.H. Schroeder, pp. 235-278. The Arizona Archaeologist, vol 15, Phoenix.

Wilson, Gordon P,
2006 Guide to Ceramic Identification: Northern Rio Grande and Galisteo Basin to A.D. 1700. 2nd ed. Technical Series Bulletin 12. Laboratory of Anthropology, Santa Fe.

Related Photos

Sakona Polychrome bowl (interior surface)

Sakona Polychrome bowl (exterior surface)

Sakona Polychrome bowl sherd (interior surface)

Sakona Polychrome bowl sherd (exterior surface)

Sakona Polychrome bowl sherd (exterior surface)

Sakona Polychrome bowl sherd (interior surface)

Sakona Polychrome jar sherd

Sakona Polychrome jar sherds