Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeGreater Tewa Basin (Northern Tewa)Northern Rio Grande Gray Ware

Ware Name: Northern Rio Grande Gray Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

The majority of the pottery from prehistoric occupations in the Northern region reflects unpolished gray ware types that indicate an overall technology initially derived from areas in the Colorado Plateau. Almost all prehistoric gray ware vessels are unpolished on both surfaces, and the temper often protrudes through the surface. The great majority of gray ware sherds exhibiting various textures are derived from cooking or storage jar forms. Pastes tend to be gray to dark gray and indicative of vessels fired in reduction to neutral atmospheres. Exteriors surfaces are often dark gray or black representing soot deposits resulting from cooking. Gray wares are assigned to various types are based on changes in surface texture as well as polish and slip treatments. While similar trends in surface characteristics are represented by gray wares produced in different areas of the Northern Rio Grande region, broad differences in paste are represented by vessels produced in areas where different paste clays and tempers were available and utilized. For example, the majority of utility ware pottery produced at locations along the valleys and drainages in the Northern Rio Grande are characterized by the use of micaceous pastes and temper (Warren 1979). The earliest gray wares exhibiting mica inclusions appear to reflect the use of crushed local mica-bearing granite cobbles as temper and clays with high iron content and micaceous inclusions associated with alluvial clay deposits common along the Rio Grande river and associated drainages (Warren 1979a). Later utility wares produced in these areas seem to reflect the use of residual micaceous clays characterized by finer temper fragments. In the Pajarito Plateau where massive tuff deposits cover most of the landscape, the majority of locally produced gray ware a temper previously described as anthill sand with non-micaceous pastes. This temper appears to reflect tuff sources with unusually high frequencies of quartz crystals. The abundance of these particles appears to have resulted from sorting action reflected in both anthills and stream beds found on the Pajarito Plateau. Similar criteria was used to assign Northern Rio Grande gray ware pottery to types based on exterior surface texture. While formal types have been defined for various surface treatments (for example Tesuque Smeared Corrugated), the definition of many of these types is somewhat vague and confusing, and the types commonly defined often do not cover the full range of manipulation encountered within these assemblages. Thus, the strategy employed here involved the utilization of descriptive types associated with a range of surface textures (Bice 1997). A range of exterior surface manipulations have been noted on pottery exhibiting both paste groups, and resulted in the identification of a number of different gray ware types.

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