Ancestral Pueblo: Greater Upper Rio Grande ValleySouthern Rio GrandeMiddle Rio GrandeMiddle-Southern Rio Grande Glaze Ware

Ware Name: Middle-Southern Rio Grande Glaze Ware

First posted by C. Dean Wilson 2012.

Glaze ware types reflect a distinct pottery class known to have been produced over very wide areas of the middle and southern Rio Grande region as well as areas in the Southwestern Colorado Plateau. While a separate incident of decorated pottery with glaze pigment derived from lead is reflected by pottery produced during the Pueblo I period in the Upper San Juan period (Shepard 1939), this technology was short-lived and is unrelated to technologies later practiced in the western portion of the Central Anasazi and the Rio Grande regions. The early use of glaze paint is briefly included in descriptions of Rosa Black-on-white. Related technologies involving the decoration of pottery with glaze paint are first associated with White Mountain Red Wares produced along the Little Colorado drainage and Zuni area. By A.D. 1300, potters in areas of the Middle Rio Grande region including the Albuquerque, Zia, and Santa Domingo areas adopted this technology, and it appears to have spread to other regions of the Rio Grande after A.D. 1350. Glaze ware types refer to pottery exhibiting painted decorations either with glaze or to unpainted sherds assumed to have been derived from vessels decorated with glaze paint. These types are defined by the use of lead glaze paint or paste reflecting pottery produced in the middle Rio Grande from about A.D. 1310 to the early 1700s (Franklin 1997; Kidder and Shepard 1936; Mera 1933; Snow 1982; 1997). Rio Grande Glaze Ware was made or used at some time in villages scattered from Taos to Truth or Consequences, and from the valley of the Rio Puerco east to the upper Pecos River Valleys. Analysis of glaze wares indicate the major components of glaze ware to be silica and glaze which remained relatively stable through time although there was variability in the colorants used (Scheler and others 2012). The occurrence of glaze wares, over wide areas of the Rio Grande culture area, reflect the spread a very new and distinct technology. Glaze wares dramatically contrast with earlier decorated white wares by the wide range of bright red, orange, pink, yellow, buff, and off white yellow colors resulting in firing a variety of clays in an oxidation atmospheres. During later periods, slip clays firing to different colors ware combined to produce a range of polychrome forms. Studies involving the characterization of glaze ware temper, paste, pigment, and style indicate widely scattered and specialized centers of production of glaze wares across much of the middle and southern Rio Grande regions (Eckert 1998; Habicht-Mauche 1993; Schleher 2011; Shepard 1936; 1942; Warren 1969; 1970). Much of the variation is reflected by variation within volcanic tempers which include variations of basalts, tuff, latites and various porphyries available and utilized by potters in different localities where glaze ware vessels were produced, although sand or sandstone temper was employed in vessels produced at Pecos Pueblo. These studies indicate that in some cases a few specific villages such as San Marcos or Tonque were responsible for glaze wares produced over a wide area. Glaze ware vessels appear to have been more widely exchanged than most other forms of pottery, and may have played an important role in feasting and other activities facilitating social interaction and integration (Curewitz and Goff 2012; Spielman 1998). The unique nature of Rio Grande glaze ware pottery presents several unique challenges related to their classification. One problem relates to the classification of pottery produced over very wide areas of the Southern and Middle Rio Grande as well as isolated points within the Northern Rio Grande region. In most cases, similarities of forms produced across the extremely broad areas which glaze ware result in their assignment to similar types. These types may further be assigned to an area of production based on the presence of tempering material thought indicative of production within a particular locale. Most of the trends noted over the wide area in which the basic system of classification of glaze rim sherds presented by Mera (1933) is still utilized (Herhahn 2014). This classification system, however, is only applicable to rim sherds. Thus, body sherds which could not be assigned to a specific type were assigned to types based on surface treatments using similar conventions as used in other recent studies in the Middle Rio Grande (Franklin 1997). Unpainted body sherds exhibiting combinations of temper, paste and surface characteristics indicating probable derivation from glazed painted vessels were assigned to descriptive type categories based on the presence or type of slip and painted decorations.

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