Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleyNorthern Rio GrandeTaos (Northern Tiwa)Taos Gray Ware

Ware Name: Taos Gray Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2015

Early types produced in the Taos region were similar to those produced in other regions of the Rio Grande to the south by may sometimes be distinguished based on slight differences in temper. Gray ware types are almost always unpainted and unpolished on both surfaces, and the temper often protrudes through the surface. The majority of gray ware sherds exhibiting various textures appear to have derived from cooking or storage jar forms although a range of forms included bowls, dippers, and particularly handled jars may occur. Exterior surfaces are often dark gray or black, reflecting sooting during cooking although they may sometimes be red to brown when exposed to oxidizing atmosphere. Pastes tended to be dark but sometimes red and fire to a deep red color when exposed to an oxidation atmosphere. Cores are extremely rare. This indicates that Taos Valley potters consistently fired gray vessels in a reduction atmosphere. Gray ware pastes also tend to be vitrified, and reflects the low vitrification temperature of high iron clay fired in a reduction atmosphere. Temper consisted of variable sized white to pink crystalline angular fragments, and apparently represents the use of a granitic schist. While similar tempers were employed in contemporaneous sites in areas in the Tewa Basin to the south, Developmental phase gray wares produced in the Taos Valley do not isia;;u contain the mica commonly occurring in the utility wares from the Tewa Basin (McNutt 1969; Wilson 2013). Micaceous pastes are extremely rare in prehistoric gray wares in the Taos district. Gray ware pottery exhibiting the local and granitic temper utilized in the Taos Valley area are assigned to various Taos gray ware types based on surface texture (Levine 1994; Peckham and Reed 1963; Wetherington 1968). These type categories include Taos Plain, Taos Incised, Taos Corrugated and Taos Punctated. Pottery exhibiting corrugated exterior corrugations tend to be extremely rare to absent at sites dating to the Valdez although may be relative common in assemblages associated with later phases. While such divisions are certainly valid, recent investigations in the Tewa Basin to the south show that a slightly more detailed division of utility ware sites may be more useful in describing and dating sites in this region. The majority of gray ware sherds from Valdez phase components exhibit smoothed unpolished surfaces, and are identical to sherds classified as Taos Plain Gray in previous studies (Levine 1994: Peckham and Reed 1963).

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