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

Type Name: Powhoge Polychrome

Period: 1760 A.D. - 1900 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

Powhoge Polychrome
First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Powhoge was defined by Harlow (1967). This type is similar to a subset of pottery assigned by Mera (1939) to Ogapoge Polychrome, and pottery thought to have been produced at San Ildefonso Pueblo referred to Chapman (1970) as Black-on-cream. Powhoge Polychrome is the most common decorated pottery type at both Pueblo and Spanish sites over a large area of the Northern Rio Grande Valley dating to the last quarter of the eighteenth and the first three quarters of the nineteenth century (Dick 1968; Harlow 1973; Frank and Harlow 1990). The emergence of the distinct combination of traits associated with Powhoge Polychrome during the late eighteenth century have been interpreted as reflecting profound changes that took place during the late eighteenth nineteenth century as the production of mass amounts of pottery increasingly geared to the tastes and needs of rapidly expanding Hispanic populations, that are also reflected by changes in other Pueblo provinces (Frank 1991: 2000; Wilson 2007). These changes appear to have resulted in major alterations in the design, shape, and production techniques in decorated Pueblo pottery vessels that reflect the merging of forms and styles characteristic of Pueblo, European, and Mexican pottery produced during that time (Wilson 2007).

Most of what is known about Powhoge Polychrome is based on descriptions of whole vessels largely from unprovenienced private and museum collections (Batkin 1987; Chapman 1970; Harlow 1970, 1973 Frank and Harlow 1990; Mera 1939), although recent descriptions have focused on the description of ceramic collections from Hispanic sites particularly in the Tewa Basin and Santa Fe Valley (Wilson 2007; 2011). Painted decorations on Powhoge Polychrome vessels were applied in organic paint over broad areas slipped with a light gray, buff to cream-colored slip. This slip usually covers almost all of the interior surfaces of shallow bowls and the upper three-quarters of the exteriors of jars and deep bowls. This slip is usually thick, well-polished, and is sometimes crackled. Most of the exterior surfaces of shallow bowls and interior surfaces of jars and deep bowls are unslipped, with tan to brown polished surfaces. A polychrome effect is created by the very sparse use of red slip, which consists of a very thin band covering the rim just below the rim on both surfaces, as well another band that sometimes covers the lower section of jars and deep bowls. The slight variation in color appears to reflect variable firing, as this slip consistently fires to a similar cream color in oxidizing atmospheres, indicating the use of similar sources for slip clay. In rare examples, cream slip was applied to both surfaces of bowls.

Painted decorations are limited to areas of vessels covered with the cream slip and are exclusively applied in a black organic pigment, and are well polished into the surface. The consistent darkness and well defined edges of this paint is notable, given exposures to an oxidizing atmosphere, and indicates the use of slip clays that retain organic pigments to a remarkable degree. Painted decorations are very distinct when compared to those noted in earlier Tewa tradition pottery types, and reflect a widespread shift in decorative conventions. Designs consist of large, bold, geometric forms divided into a series of segments. Decorations consist of wide panels framed by thin single or double lines. Designs on the exteriors of jars and deep bowls consist of very wide bands covering at least two-thirds of the vessels, framed by one or two lines and red slip. Decorations on bowl interiors often consist of an overall design covering the cream-slipped area below the red slipped rims and first framing line. The areas directly below the rim are framed by a single thin incorporated or isolated framing line or similar double thin framing lines. The first framing line usually begins just below the rim. The red slip extends down to the surface to a point about halfway between the top of the rim and first framing line, forming a series of alternating thin horizontal red, cream, and black lines near the top of the vessel. A similar effect is created along the bottom band on exterior decorations. Framing lines tend to be thin and closely spaced. The use of small motifs and thin lines common in Tewa Polychrome was replaced with bold geometric designs that covered large portions of the vessel field. Design motifs are usually large and execution tends to be fairly crude. The most common designs incorporated into these geometric fields are straight and curved triangles. Other motifs include short line segments, dots, solid circles and half circles, elliptical circles, open circles, solid squares, stylized clouds, leaf-shaped elements, and stylized feathers. These designs motifs are usually organized into two basic types of patterns. The first involves the organization of triangles and occasionally other motifs into simple arrangements that include the repetition of elements into linear connected arrangements, opposing arrangements, or in checkerboard sequences. Variations in such designs produce an array of patterns, some of which are still employed in pottery that is today still produced by Pueblo potters (Chapman 1970). These linear arrangements commonly appear around jar necks, the upper portions of bowls, and the flat areas of soup plates. In some examples, a series of checkered triangles or diamonds may cover most, or all, of the painted surface. In other cases, design motifs may be combined into bold medallion, floral, or shield patterns. These patterns may consist of single elements, such as triangles in stylized sun or floral patterns, or a number of other elements which end in or are surrounded by radiating triangles or leaves. Other patterns were created by incorporating a number of elements into fairly complicated units that are usually surrounded by pointed triangles or elliptical circles. This creates the effect of a design element being surrounded by rays, petals, feathers, or fringes. One or two of these patterns are often repeated across the exterior of jars and may appear in isolation or be separated by horizontal lines that extend across the banded segment. This results in a series of framed units which form the overall banded design. These patterns can also be arranged into a single unit that may appear on the lower portion of a bowl.

Vessel forms include a range of distinct bowl and jar shapes. Jars bodies are roughly spherical (Harlow 1973). At the opening is a short neck with more or less flare at the rim. Bowls include both shallow and deep forms with a flare near the top. Deep dough bowl sherds have sometimes been assigned to the jar category because of the angle of the rim and exterior decoration. Short open bowls were the most common form noted in archaeological assemblages. A few examples exhibit a slight flare near the rim. These short open bowls are almost always slipped and painted on interior surfaces only. These bowls tend to be shallow and relatively small in size. While Powhoge Polychrome from sites scattered over a wide area exhibit similar designs and forms, there may be some areal distinctions although they may be difficult to recognize in archaeological collections (Harlow 1973).

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

Chapman, Kenneth
1970 The Pottery of San Ildefonso Pueblo. University of New Mexico Press.

Dick, Herbert W.
1968 Six Historic Pottery Types from Spanish Sites in New Mexico. In Collected Papers in Honor of Lyndon L. Hargrave, edited by A.H. Schroeder, pp. 77-94. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No.1. Museum of New Mexico Press.

Frank, Ross
1991 Changing Pueblo Indian Pottery Tradition: the Underside of Economic Development in Late Colonial New Mexico, 1750-1820. Journal of the Southwest 33:3. 282-321.

2000 From Settler to Citizen: New Mexican Economic Development and the Creation of the Vecino Society. 1750-1820, University of California Press, Berkeley.

Frank, Larry and Francis H. Harlow
1990 Historic Pottery of the Pueblo Indians 1600-1880. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., West Chester.

Harlow, Francis H.

1967 Historic Pueblo Indian Pottery, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.

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.

Mera H. P.
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.

Wilson, C. Dean

2007 Insights from Powhoge Polychrome at Archaeological Sites. In Texas and Pints West; Papers in Honor of Joh A. Hedrick and Carrol P Hedrick, edited by R. N. Wiseman, T. C. O'Laughlin, and C. T. Snow, pp. 175-185. Archaeological Society of New Mexico PapersL 33, Albuquerque.

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.

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