Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeGreater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)Northern Rio Grande Historic Bichrome - Polychrome WareTewa Polychrome

Type Name: Tewa Polychrome

Period: 1650 A.D. - 1775 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

Tewa Polychrome was defined by Mera (1932; 1939). This type is narrowly defined and is usually easily distinguished from other polychrome types produced by Northern Tewa potters. This type commonly occurs in assemblages associated with occupation dating to late seventeenth and most of the eighteenth century (Batkin 1987; Harlow 1973; Mera 1939; Snow 1982; D Wilson 2011; G Wilson 2006). It begins to occur in increasing frequencies along with glaze ware types just prior to Pueblo revolt period and is the most dominant if not exclusive decorated type in many assemblages in the Northern Rio Grande dating to the first half of the eighteenth century.

Pastes noted in Tewa Polychrome sherds tend to be hard and compact and tan to brown. The core is often gray and has a fine grainy texture. The paste is a fine tuff, with some examples exhibiting fine mica fragments. Pastes tend to be hard and compact and may indicate firing at a relatively high temperature (Harlow 1973). A distinctive feature of Tewa Polychrome is the occurrence of deep red slips over most of the decorated vessel surface. Slips on these surfaces cover the decorated sides of vessels from the rim to the basal support area. While most of this surface is characterized by broadly applied red slips, it also contains a much thinner banded area covered with a light-colored slip over which decorations in black organic paint were applied. The lighter slip is often white, buff, or tan in color. This slip exhibits fine horizontal striations, and fine crackling. The white slip consistently overlaps the red slip, indicating the broad red slip was applied first contrasting with later Rio Grande polychrome types where the lighter slip was applied first. Areas that are not slipped are usually well smoothed and evenly polished. Two distinct features associated with the production of Tewa Polychrome are steep shouldered bowls and the absence of interior painted decoration (Harlow 1973).

The design field of Tewa Polychrome shouldered bowls is limited to a banded design bounded by the bowl rim and the bowl keel. In jars, this restriction of the design field is reflected in a limited design band around the jar bulge (Harlow 1973). Tewa Polychrome shouldered bowls are slipped on the rim and bowl underbody. The lack of interior painted decoration on these vessels reflects a significant change in the stylistic approach. This involved the use of red slip to cover some portion of the vessel interior, and may have allowed for increased expediency of the production of vessels for a growing number of Hispanic and Spanish consumers by limiting the size of area which was painted. In some cases, the red slip covers the entire bowl interior. In others, the red slip extends from the rim to the bowl keel. This increasing use of a red slip can also be seen in the treatment of other vessel forms. For example, the design band on soup plates is restricted to the wide flared rim of these vessels, while a red slip is almost always used to cover the vessel interior, and frequently covers the underside of the vessel. Tewa Polychrome jars are decorated with a narrow design band confined to the mid-body bulge. The remainder of the vessel is almost always red slipped from the rim to the design band. Red slip extends below the design band, sometimes covering the entire underbody of the vessel. Designs are executed in dark black organic paint, with a somewhat better control than earlier forms (Harlow 1973). Rims are covered with red slip but are not decorated. Although the design elements occurring on Tewa Polychrome vessels are comparable to those on earlier types, the emphasis on the solid triangle and its elaboration continues to increase in Tewa Polychrome. Thin parallel lines and dot filling continue to be the dominant design element. This is a continuation of a trend reflected by changes from Sankawi Black-on-cream to Sakona Polychrome. Solid triangles that are often elaborated with appendages are common. Design elements appear to vary little across different forms, and there appears to be considerable consistency across forms assigned to this type. Examples of Tewa Polychrome forms include shouldered bowls, hemispherical bowls, soup plates, and jars. Tewa Polychrome shouldered bowls exhibit sharp, well defined, angled keels (Harlow 1973). Tewa Polychrome soup plates are characterized by wide flared rims, which give way abruptly to a shallow bowl-shaped underbody.

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

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

Mera, H. P.
1932 Wares Ancestral to Tewa Polychrome. Laboratory of Anthropology Technical Series Bulletin No. 4. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

1939 Style Trends of Pueblo Pottery in the Rio Grande and Little Colorado Cultural Areas from the Sixteenth to the Nineteenth Century. Laboratory of Anthropology Memoris 3, 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 C. Dean
2011 Historic Indigenous Ceramic Types. In Settlers and Soldiers: The Historic Component at El Pueblo de Santa Fe (LA 1051), by S. C. Lentz and M. J. Barbour, pp 223 -234. Archaeology Notes, 410. Office of Archaeological Studies, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

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, New Mexico.

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