Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeRio Grande HispanicHispanic Utility-Plain WareCarnue Gray Utility

Type Name: Carnue Gray Utility

Period: 1790 A.D. - 1895 A.D.
Culture: Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande Valley
Branch: Northern Rio Grande
Tradition: Rio Grande Hispanic
Ware: Hispanic Utility-Plain Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Carnue Gray Utility was described by Hurt and Dick (1946) and later named by Dick (1969) to describe non-micaceous utility wares common at historic Hispanic and Pueblo sites. This type is normally distinguished from other historic utility ware types by a coarse sand temper without any micaceous fragments, crumbly paste, and light gray to gray paste and surface colors. This temper appears to reflect the use of sandy riverine clays occurring along the Rio Grande River and associated tributaries. Both surfaces tend to be rough and unpolished (Dick 1968). Paste and surface colors are variable and most cross sections are light gray to reddish and sometimes exhibit a dark gray core. Interior and exterior surfaces are most often white, light gray to gray or brown in color. Pastes exposed to controlled oxidation atmospheres that fire to yellow-red or red colors. While Dick (1968) postulated that different firing atmospheres were utilized by Spanish (reducing) and Indian (oxidizing) potters, it may also be possible that these color ranges reflect the utilization of clays with fairly high iron content and poorly controlled firing atmosphere mostly but not always tending toward a reducing atmosphere.

Carnue Utility is represented by a of forms, as bowls and cooking jars both occur. Bowls tend to exhibit a gradual curve and soup bowls are rare. While bowl rims are sometimes unpolished on both sides, bowls are commonly polished and sometimes smudged on the interior surface. The other form represented by large number of sherds consists of jars exhibiting a distinct neck and wide rim radius relative to the vessel size. The shapes and forms are distinct from those noted in other historic utility wares in collections examined and similar to forms common in earlier Anasazi gray ware forms. Surfaces are usually smoothed over the entire vessel, although scraping marks are sometimes present. Vessel forms are primarily represented by wide mouth jars that appear to have utilized for cooking and storage activities.

Similar pottery has been assigned to Yupa Plain, Santa Cruz Plain, Manzano Coarse, and Plain Faint-Striated and Heavily Striated Plain Wares (Brody and Colberg 1966; Hurt and Dick 1946). It has sometimes been assumed that Carnue Gray was produced by Hispanic potters in the Middle Rio Grande area (Franklin 1997), although Ellis (1983) notes that similar "bean pots" consisting of undecorated jars were produced at Isleta Pueblo until the early 20th century. Dick indicates that some vessels that would be assigned to Carnue Utility were produced by Hispanic potters while other examples were produced by Pueblo potters. Dick (1968) estimated this type was produced from A.D. 1700-1895, although a beginning date sometime during the late eighteenth century seems more likely. Pottery exhibiting the characteristics described for Carnue Plain appears to have been very widespread spanning along the Rio Grande drainage across the state of New Mexico from Trinidad-Antonito, Colorado to south of Mesilla, New Mexico (Dick 1968).

Brody, J. J., and Anne Colberg
1966 A Spanish-American Homestead Near Placitas, New Mexico. El Palacio 73:11-20.

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, Albuquerque.

Ellis, Florence H., and J.J. Brody
1983 Historic Rio Grande Pottery and Potters. In Collected Papers in Honor of Charlie Steen Junior, edited by N.J. Fox, pp. 224-249. Papers of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico 8, Albuquerque Archaeological Society Press, Santa Fe.

Franklin, Hayward
1997 Valencia Pueblo Ceramics. In Excavations at Valencia Pueblo (LA 953) and a Nearby Hispanic Settlement (LA 67321), Valencia County, New Mexico. edited by K.L. Brown and B.J. Vierra, pp 125-257. Office of Contract Archaeology Report No. 185-400F, Albuquerque.

Hurt, Wesley R., and Herbert Dick
1946 Spanish-American Pottery from New Mexico. El Palacio 53(1).

Wilson, C. Dean
2001 Ceramics. In Valencia: A Spanish Colonial and Mexican Period Site Along NM 47 in Valencia County, New Mexico, by N.J. Akins, Office of Archaeological Studies Archaeology Notes 267, pp 37-60. Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe.

Related Photos

Carnue Gray Utility sherds

Carnue Gray Utility bowl sherds

Carnue Gray Utility jar sherds

Carnue Gray jar sherd

Carnue Gray jar sherd (exterior surface)

Carnue Gray jar sherd (interior surface)

Carnue Gray jar sherd