Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)Southwest ApacheanNavajoNavajo Painted WareNavajo Painted

Type Name: Navajo Painted

Period: 1750 A.D. - 0 Now
Culture: Apachean (Southern Athapaskan)
Branch: Southwest Apachean
Tradition: Navajo
Ware: Navajo Painted Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Navajo Painted was defined by Brugge (1963) to characterize Navajo painted pottery forms produced after the Navajo abandoned the Dinetah region and moved into their current homeland at about A.D. 1750. Traits noted for vessels associated with this type are variable, and individual vessels seem to often roughly resemble pottery produced at the Pueblos located most closely to where a particular Navajo painted vessel was produced (Brugge 1963; 1983; 1987; Hill 1995; Keur 1941).

Surfaces are almost always less finished and designs are more simply executed then on contemporary Pueblo vessels (Brugge 1963). Surfaces are usually not slipped and tend to be orange to buff but are sometimes reddish gray, brown or yellow. Surfaces tend to be poorly finished and are commonly rough and with streaked marks. Temper is similar to that noted in Navajo Gray and includes crushed pot sherd, sand, and sandstone. Early forms of this type more closely resemble Gobernador Polychrome although the paste does not tend to be as hard. Designs may include simple geometric forms including triangles or chevron lines that may encircle the vessel as well as simple imagery that may include corn, humans, as well as wild and domestic animals. Designs may be executed in either a red or black mineral pigment. Designs on earlier forms may be similar to those noted in Gobernador Polychrome but tend to be larger, less intricate, and more poorly executed. Vessel walls are variable but to tend to be thick relative to vessel size although there appears to be considerable variability. Vessels tend to be unevenly shaped and are mostly represented by bowls although jars, plates, and miniature forms are also represented.

Descriptions of pottery exhibiting characteristics of this type have been identified at but are rare at archaeological sites (Keur 1941; Vivian 1969). Other information about pottery that may be assigned to this type is based on ethnographic descriptions of Navajo pottery (Hill 1937; Tschopik 1941). This type appears to have always been rare but seems to have been produced from about 1750 to the mid twentieth century. The distribution of this pottery type corresponds to the recent distribution of the Navajo. This may include an area as far east as Big Bead Mesa, west to Black Mesa, and north to the San Juan River in Utah. The production of Navajo painted pottery was always rare and the distribution of this type seems to be quite spotty.

Brugge, David M.

1963 Navajo Pottery and Ethnohistory. Navajo Nation Papers in Anthropology #4. Navajo Nation Cultural Resource Management Program, Window Rock, Arizona.

1983 Navajo Prehistory and History to 1850. In Southwest Handbook of North American Indians,edited by Alfonso Ortiz, pp. 489-501. vol. 10: W. Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

1987 Navajo Pottery in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. Plateau 59(2):3-8.

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, Denver.

Hill, W.W
1937 Navajo Pottery Manufacture. University of New Mexico Bulletin Anthropological Series. Vol. 2 (3). University of New Mexico, Albuquerque,

Keur, Dorothy L.
1941 Big Bead Mesa: An Archaeological Study of Navajo Acculturation, 1745-1812. Memoir of the Society for American Archaelogy 1.

Tschopik, H, Jr
1941 Navajo Pottery Making: An Inquiry into the Affinities of Navaho Painted Pottery, Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, Vol 17(1), Cambridge, Massachussetts.

Vivian, R. Gordon
1960 The Navajo Archaeology of Chacra Mesa, New Mexico. M.A. thesis, Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque,

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