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

Ware Name: Northern Rio Grande Historic Plain Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012

Tewa Plain Ware types refer to historic utility wares produced in the Northern Rio Grande region through the historic period. Tewa Plain Ware as defined here appears to be similar to the pottery earlier described from Pecos Pueblo as Undecorated Smooth Ware. Most Tewa Plain Ware types exhibit at least one polished surface, and surfaces are almost never textured. Pottery belonging to this group is usually assigned to types based on the presence and type of slipped surfaces (Mera 1939; Snow 1982). Characteristics of Tewa Plain Ware types reflect the combinations of traits associated with pottery types dominating Pueblo and Hispanic assemblages in much of central New Mexico dating from the Early Colonial to Early Territorial periods. The earliest type placed into this group is Potsuwi’i Incised which was mainly produced during the sixteenth century (Mera 1932; Wendorf 1953). The combination of characteristics noted for this type seems to foreshadow traits noted in later Tewa Plain Wares. Other influences on plain ware types include Spanish vessel forms and technologies such a smudging that may have been introduced by Indians from Mexico who came into New Mexico with the Spanish (Warren 1979). Another source of influence may have been from Salinas Red which was the dominant utility ware in the Salinas Region and Lower Rio Grande during the 17th century and was basically an unpainted glaze ware. The shapes, surface treatments, types of slips, and pastes employed in types assigned to Tewa Plain and Tewa Polychrome wares overlap; and changes in surface in vessels associated with these different ware groups appear to have influenced each other (Harlow 1973; Mera 1932). These similarities can sometimes make it difficult to distinguished unpainted sherds from polychrome and plain ware vessels. Tewa Plain Ware sherds were assigned to different types based on the use of or type of slip on various surfaces. The different groups defined for Tewa Plain Ware types represent related innovations in the decoration of red and smudged utility ware forms (Harlow 1973). Vessels belonging to both of these groups were manufactured using similar techniques. Those assigned to red ware and black ware types differ only by techniques used during the final steps of firing that is represented by oxidizing atmosphere for red wares as compared to a highly reduction atmosphere resulting in carbon or soot deposited on black ware types (Harlow 1973). A similar dichotomy is represented for unslipped forms by buff and polished gray ware types.

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