Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleySouthern Rio GrandeRio AbajoRio Abajo White WareSan Marcial Black-on-white

Type Name: San Marcial Black-on-white

Period: 600 A.D. - 950 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande Valley
Branch: Southern Rio Grande
Tradition: Rio Abajo
Ware: Rio Abajo White Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

San Marcial Black-on-white was defined by Mera (1935). This type refers to the earliest white wares known to have been produced in the middle and lower Rio Grande Valley. The time of production is still poorly documented but probably spans from the seventh century to the middle tenth century. This type appears to have been produced over wide areas south of the middle and southern Rio Grande regions. San Marcial Black-on-white was first defined and described by Mera (1935), which was described as the earliest type for the area he assigned to the Southern Division. Mera (1935) illustrated the distributions of sites containing San Marcial Black-on-white type as reflecting areas and associated drainages located between Socorro and Truth and Consequences. Very few descriptions of ceramics from early sites in this area have so far been presented. A discussion is presented by Marshall and Wait (1984) for the Rio Abajo region.

In all but the northernmost areas of its occurrence, San Marcial Black-on-white occurs in assemblages that are dominated by Mogollon brown ware and early Mimbres decorated types. San Marcial Black-on-white, however, represents a true white ware, although it exhibits some Mogollon stylistic influences. Sites with San Marcial Black-on-white have been noted areas to the west of the Rio Abajo region including areas along the Alamosa drainage, and the Gallina Mountains to the west (Wilson 1995) Chupadero Mesa, as well as localities in the Middle Rio Grande including the west valley of Albuquerque (Lakatos and Wilson 2012) the Puerco Valley (Hurst 2003), the Jemez drainage (Ferg 1983) and the Southern Santa Domingo Valley (Wilson 2010). It is unclear whether San Marcial Black-on-white gave rise to later ceramic types (Mera 1935; and Marshall and Wait 1984). The earliest painted white wares from the Middle Rio Grande exhibit a distinct range of pastes and stylistic traits, and supports the assignment of this pottery into San Marcial Black-on-white rather than White Mound Black-on-white.

Paste color of San Marcial Black-on-white ranges from yellow, pink, light gray to white. Examples of San Marcial Black-on-white in the northernmost areas where this type was produced tend to fire to lighter colors, while those in the southern part of this range are more likely to be fired to more reddish colors in oxidizing atmosphere. Some San Marcial Black-on-white sherds exhibit a gray core, although some are white throughout. Pastes are blocky with protruding temper fragments. Temper tends to consist of rounded quartz sand, sometimes with rounded gray white to buff shale fragments. Surfaces tend to be light gray to white, light gray, tan to pink in color. Jars and bowls are both relatively common. Jars are represented by a wide variety of forms including bowls, necked jars, and seed jars. Bowls tend to be painted on the interior surface only and jars are only painted on the exteriors. Unpainted surfaces are unpolished to lightly polished. Painted surfaces tend to be slightly to be moderately polished. Rims are tapered, and either undecorated or painted with a single solid painted line. Decorations reflect the use of a thick mineral pigment that ranges from red, brown to black but are commonly brown. Some examples of this type exhibit designs which are fairly well organized and precisely executed.

While the basic design motifs are somewhat similar to those noted on contemporary white ware types associated with other regional pottery traditions, overall styles are distinct from White Mound and other contemporaneous Anasazi types. Painted styles tend to be bold, and often consist of wide parallel lines, solid triangles, and serrated solids. Elements are often oriented in intersecting, chevron, rectilinear, or curvilinear patterns covering much of the vessel surface. The overall orientation pattern and effect of these designs more sometimes more closely resemble those noted on Mogollon types such as Mogollon Red-on-brown or Three Circle Red-on-white. The overall designs of at least some examples of San Marcial Black-on-white may indicate it might have been produced by groups who had earlier made Mogollon Red-on-brown. Given the similarities of San Marcial Black-on-white found in various areas, it is likely that forms assigned to this type were produce over a wide area.

Ferg, Alan
1983 LA 25860: The Sheep Chute Site. In Excavation sat Three Developmental Period Sites near Zia and Santa Anna Pueblos, New Mexico, by N. S. Hammack, A. Ferg, and B. Bradley, pp. 7–87. CASA Papers No. 2. Complete Archaeological Service Associates, Cortez.

Hurst, Winston
2003 Typological Analysis of Ceramics from the Middle Rio Puerco of the East. In Prehistory of the Middle Rio Puerco Valley, Sandoval County, New Mexico, edited by L. L. Baker and S. R. Durand, pp. 55–118. Archaeological Society of New Mexico Special Publication No. 3. Scopecraft Press, Portales.

Lakatos, Steven A., and C. Dean Wilson
2012 The Unexpected Stability of Rio Grande Communities During the Early Developmental Period. In Crucible of Pueblos: The Early Pueblo Period in the Northern Southwest, edited by R. H. Wilshusen, G. Schachner, and James Allison, pp. 127–145. Monograph 71. Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press, University of California, Las Angeles.

Marshall, Michael P., and Henry J. Walt
1984 Rio Abajo: Prehistory and History of a Rio Grande Province. New Mexico Historic Preservation Program, Santa Fe.

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

2010 Pena Blanca Ceramics. In Excavations Along NM 22: Agricultural Adaptation from ad 500 to 1900 in the Northern Santo Domingo Basin, Sandoval County, New Mexico, compiled by S. L. Post and R. C. Chapman, pp. 13–144. Archaeology Notes, 385. Office of Archaeological Studies, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

Wilson, John P.
1995 Prehistory of the Gallina Mountains. In Of Pots and Rocks: Papers in Honor of HA. Helene Warren, edited by M. S. Duran and D. T Kirkpatrick, pp 189-210. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico No. 21, Albuquerque.

Related Photos

San Marcial black-on-white bowl sherd

San Marcial Black-on-white jar sherd

San Marcial Black-on-white bowl sherds

San Marcial Black-on-white seed jar

San Marcial Black-on-white bowl

San Marcial Black-on-white bowl sherds

San Marcial Black-on-white bowl sherds

San Marcial Black-on-white sherds

San Marcial Black-on-white and associated types