restricted access 6. Pottery Studies
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99 6 Pottery Studies Jane Holden Kelley and Karin Burd Larkin When the Proyecto Arqueológico Chihuahua (PAC) began working in the southern zone of the Casas Grandes culture area, basic chronological and typological questions had to be addressed before we could concentrate on larger research goals. For the ceramics we asked questions such as How did the local assemblage fit into general patterns for the Casas Grandes culture area? Were there differences in pottery assemblages among the PAC’s three main research areas for that culture (Babícora Basin, Santa María Valley, and Santa Clara Valley)? Which types were local and which were not? In response to such questions , over two decades of work, the project was able to build a culture history for the southern reaches of the Casas Grandes culture area, define similarities and differences in ceramic types relative to the Casas Grandes core area of northwest Chihuahua, identify local versus nonlocal types, complete sourcing studies, and recognize a ceramic type that marks the transition between the Viejo and Medio periods. In this chapter we discuss the background for our research, our methods, and our results. Prior Ceramic Studies Researchers in Chihuahua in the 1880s to mid-­ 1900s (Bandelier 1890; Blackiston 1905, 1908; Brand 1933, 1935, 1943; Carey 1931; Hewett 1908; Kidder 1916, 1924, 1939; Lumholtz 1902; Noguera 1926; Sayles 1936a, 1936b) had little information to go on. For this reason (and given archaeology ’s goals when most of them were working), they used pottery to establish chronologies and cultural boundaries. Many practiced cross-­ seriation: they defined a particular ceramic tradition in one area and related it to other traditions in the Southwest. They offered general descriptions based on site surveys throughout Chihuahua but did little or no excavation. The early studies of Chihuahua pottery used a variety of approaches — ​sometimes using descrip­ tive categories, sometimes relying on named types, sometimes giving tabulations and frequencies for differentiating types. For ex­ ample, Ascher and Clune (1960) saw the ­pottery from Waterfall Cave (in the Sierra Madre Occidental ) as related to Casas Grandes, using terms such as Alma Plain and Alma Textured, black, dark brown, red-­ on-brown, and Ramos and Babícora Polychrome. Donald Brand (1933) combined type names and descriptive cate­gories. Among the named types that he tabulated were Casas Grandes Polychrome, Villa Ahumada Polychrome, Huérigos Polychrome, and types from north of the international border. His descriptive categories included black-­ on-polished red or black, untextured red ware, red ware with indented rims, untextured black ware, and textured (gouged, incised, and corrugated) (Brand 1933:​ 76–96). Edward B. Sayles (1936b) outlined and described the main Chihuahua types for the Viejo and Medio periods. The most intensive archaeological work ever conducted in northwest Mexico was carried out by the Joint Casas Grandes Expedition (JCGE) Jane Holden Kelley and Karin Burd Larkin 100 between 1958 and 1961 (Di Peso 1974; Di Peso et al. 1974). The resulting report incorporates earlier studies on Chihuahua pottery and provides the first truly systematic description of the Casas Grandes ceramic tradition (Di Peso et al. 1974, Vol. 6). The JCGE mostly relied on existing type names for red-­on-brown, polychrome, and other painted wares but subdivided many types into named variants based on quantified attributes such as variation in line width. It also defined new types, especially for the Viejo period red-­ on-­ brown pottery. In contrast, even when plain and textured wares were given type names, they continued to be mostly descriptive categories, as they are over much of the Southwest. It is not clear who established the type definitions for the project or who did the ­actual sorting of sherds. Gloria Fenner (personal communication to J. Kelley 2010) has stated that when the sherds arrived at the Amerind Foundation in Arizona , they were already sorted into types. Her job, and that of John Rinaldo, was to describe the variability within those types. The JCGE ceramic volume (Di Peso et al. 1974, Vol. 6) has become the standard reference for the Casas Grandes culture area, but recent projects have struggled to apply the typology to their own assemblages. When it came to Viejo period ceramics, the JCGE analysts acknowledged that within the red-­ on-brown types of “Fernando, Leal, and Pilon...there was a greater range of variation within each type than between any two of them” (Di Peso et al. 1974:6:30). The PAC used these types as a starting point but found them difficult to...


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