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

Ware Name: Northern Rio Grande White Ware

First posted C. Dean Wilson 2012

The great majority of decorated types defined for the Northern Rio Grande tradition display distinct high-iron pastes and fine volcanic temper indicative of sources long-selected by potters using clay and temper sources distributed across this region. Mera (1935) included the sequence in this area as one aspect of a series of related developments in what he described as the Northern Division. One of the sequences discussed for this area was defined as beginning with Chaco-like white ware pottery that would now be classified as Red Mesa Black-on-white. Other pottery types defined for this sequence included Kwahe'e Black-on-white, Santa Fe Black-on-white, and Wiyo Black-on-white (Mera 1935). Other syntheses by Mera extended this sequence to Biscuit A and Biscuit B for the Classic period (Mera 1934), as well as to types such as Sankawi Black-on-cream that appeared transitional to the Classic and Historic period (Mera 1932) and finally to Tewa Polychrome types produced in the historic period (Mera 1939). The sequence of types assigned here to the Northern Rio Grande tradition is also similar to that attributed by others to the Tewa White Ware series (Gauthier 1987; Harlow 1973; Wendorf 1955). Part of the sequence is also reflected by the Pajarito series as defined during the Arroyo Hondo Project (Habicht-Mauche 1993). Types assigned to these various regional classification schemes are included here in the Northern Rio Grande tradition, which reflects the long sequence of pottery production of related forms thought to have been produced by Northern Tewa Pueblo groups. Many of the decorated types produced during various time-spans are defined and separated by a series of technological changes that reflect combinations of influences from other traditions as well as local innovations. Such shifts in ceramic technology began with the production of mineral painted white wares similar to those produced in areas of the Colorado Plateau to the west but with locally available fine-self tempered clays during the Late Developmental period. This was followed by a shift from decorations in mineral organic paint during the start of the Coalition period. Pottery produced during the Classic period is reflected by a shift to soft porous clays that mature in relatively low firing temperatures and the later production of black-on-cream vessels during the late the Classic and early Colonial periods. Other changes included the addition of red slips and paint in combination with cream slips to produce distinct historic Tewa polychrome types. These technological changes were often accompanied by changes in decorated styles and forms which together form the basis for the definition and identification of various Northern Rio Grande decorated ceramic types. The nature and extent of the geographic distribution of the various Northern Rio Grande ceramic types defined for various occupational periods may differ significantly from one period to another. Thus, it is possible that the wide distribution of some types could reflect their production by a number of different Pueblo groups, or that there may have been an expansion and then contraction of the area occupied by the direct ancestors of the Northern Tewa Pueblo.

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