Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)Southwest ApacheanNavajoNavajo Painted WareGobernador Polychrome

Type Name: Gobernador Polychrome

Period: 1620 A.D. - 1760 A.D.
Culture: Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)
Branch: Southwest Apachean
Tradition: Navajo
Ware: Navajo Painted Ware

Gobernador Polychrome
First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Governador Polychrome was defined by Kidder and Shepard (1936). This type refers to very distinct Navajo decorated pottery occurring in the Upper San Juan region that is largely associated with the Gobernador phase (Brugge 1963; Brugge 1982; Carlson 1965; Hill 1995; Marshall 1995; Reed and Goff 2007; Wilson and Blinman 1993). Gobernador Polychrome was stylistically and technologically similar to contemporary Pueblo types and occurring along with a variety intrusive Pueblo types (Reed and Reed 2007). It was originally assumed that Gobernador Polychrome was introduced and possibly even manufactured by refugee Pueblo potters, but it has since been demonstrated that this type was first produced by Navajo potters at least 60 years prior to the Pueblo revolt (Reed and Reed 1996). Gobernador Polychrome appears to have been produced until the abandonment of the Upper San Juan country by the Navajo around the middle of the eighteenth century. Designs and surfaces reflect influences from late Rio Grande Glaze Ware types and Tewa decorated and polychrome types as well as Jemez Black-on-white and Hopi Yellow Ware types. Thus, characteristics of this type reflect influences from a variety of groups with which the Navajo interacted before the Pueblo revolt and refugee periods.

Vessels are completely smoothed, but surfaces are frequently bumpy and irregular. Bowl interiors and jar exteriors are usually lightly and unevenly polished. Vessels and sherds are dense and hard, and vessel walls are strong. Wall thickness is quite variable. Pastes are vitrified and occasionally bloated and brittle. Combinations of paste characteristics seem to indicate firings to a high temperature in an oxidation atmosphere. This may reflect firing techniques similar to that used by the Hopi beginning during the late prehistoric period in which coal was used as a fuel. The outer portion of the paste is usually red, orange, or buff, and a distinctive gray to dark gray core is often present. Surface color is usually orange to buff but may be red, yellow, brown, or gray. Temper often consists of extremely small angular white to gray fragments. These include siltstone, sandstone, crushed sherd, and occasional sand particles. A detrital source may be indicated (Hill 1995). The paste may also include gray, yellow, and white clay pellets. Vessel forms are similar to those noted in contemporaneous century Pueblo ceramics and assemblages are dominated by bowls and jars (Carlson 1965; Marshall 1985). Most bowls are carinated, with a prominent rounded shoulder encircling the bowl exterior. Jars necks are wide and rims curve outward. Bases are relatively flat and then ascend abruptly to the body. Decoration is carried out with a combination of slips and red and black pigments. Often the unpainted areas of the vessel are slipped, while painted portions of the vessel are not slipped. The unslipped areas are covered with red and black painted designs resulting in polychrome decorations.

Painted designs usually consist of solid red motifs framed by thin black lines. Motifs include a series of parallel bars, diamonds, stepped triangles, triangles, and occasional naturalistic elements, including feather motifs. Decorations on jars are often divided into three distinct fields. These include; a red slip in the upper neck area; one or more unslipped decorated bands often encircling the widest part of the jar; and a slipped and unpainted field on the lower body. The upper part of jar neck interiors may be slipped and is sometimes painted. Both bowl interiors and exteriors are usually decorated. The painted area below the exterior rim is usually not slipped. Bowl interior treatments are variable, but decoration appears to be divided into an upper yellow zone and lower red zone, both of which may be decorated with designs executed in thin black lines.

Brugge, David M.

1963 Navajo Pottery and Ethnohistory. Navajo Nation Papers in Anthropology 2, Navajo Nation Cultural Resource Management Program, Window Rock, Arizona.

1982 Apache and Navajo Ceramics in Southwestern Ceramics. In Southwest Ceramics: A Comparative Review. Edited by A. H. Schroeder, pp. 279-298. Arizona Archaeologist 15, The Arizona Archeological Society, Phoenix.

Carlson, R.L.
1965 Eighteenth Century Navajo Fortresses of the Gobernador District. Museum Series in Anthropology, No. 10. University of Colorado, Boulder.

Hill, David V.
1995 A Brief Overview of the Navajo Presence in the Upper San Juan Drainage and South Colorado and their Ceramics. In Archaeological Pottery of Colorado: Ceramic Clues to the Prehistoric and Protohistoric Lives of the State’s Native Peoples, edited by R.H. Brunswig, Jr., B. Bradley, and S.M. Chandler, pp. 98-119. Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists Paper No. 2, Denver.

Kidder, Alfred V., and Anna O. Sherpard
1936 The Pottey of Pecos, Volume II; Glaze Paint, Culinary, and Other Wares. Papers of the Phillips Academy No.7, New Haven.

Marshall, M.P.
1985 The Excavation of the Cortez CO2 Pipeline Project Sites, 1982-1983. Project no. 185-161A, C.D.M. Office of Contract Archaeology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Reed, Lori and Joel Goff
2007 A Field Guide to Upper San Juan Anasazi and Navajo Pottery. Prepared for the NMAC Ceramic Workshop, Farmington District Office, Document on file, Bureau of Land Management, Farmington.

Reed, Lori S. and Paul F. Reed
1992 The Protohistoric Navajo: Implication of Interaction, Exchange, and Alliance Formation with the Eastern and Western Pueblos. In Cultural Diversity and Adaptation: The Archaic, Anasazi, and Navajo Occupation of the Upper San Juan Basin, edited by L. Reed and P. Reed, pp. 91-91-104. Cultural Resources Series No. 9. New Mexico Bureau of Land Management, Albuquerque.

Wilson, C, Dean, and Eric Blinman
1993 Upper San Juan Region Typology. Archaeology Notes 80, Office of Archaeological Studies, Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

Related Photos

Gobernador Polychrome bowl sherd (exterior surfaces)

Gobernador Polychrome bowl sherd (interior surfaces)

Gobernador Polychrome sherds

Gobernador Polychrome jar

Gobernador Polychrome jar

Gobernador Polychrome sherds