MESA VERDE WHITE WARE
Plain Sherds From Black-on-white Vessels
A large number (2,510) of plain sherds, presumably from black-on-white vessels because of their color, slip, and surface finish, were recovered during the excavation of Big Juniper House. Approximately 25 percent of the sherds came from bowls and 75 percent from jars. Nine bowl sherds had indented-corrugated exteriors, a trait common to both Cortez Black-on-white and Mancos Black-on-white. Plain sherds from black-on-white vessels account for nearly a third of the total Mesa Verde White Ware sherds (table 3).
The jar sherds share a characteristic of painted jars in the Mesa Verde areaopen designs with undecorated spaces between the elements. Because of this trait and their larger size, jars would tend to produce more plain sherds than the smaller bowls.
Many black-on-white sherds could not be classified because they showed little decoration or lacked distinctive traits. The 1,108 unclassified black-on-white sherds account for approximately 15 percent of the total Mesa Verde White Ware sherds. There were 483 bowl sherds, of which 9 had corrugated exteriors, and 624 jar sherds and 1 unidentified sherd, possibly from an effigy jar, with the unusual feature of a corrugated interior.
Only one sherd was classified as Chapin Black-on-white, the Basketmaker III and early Pueblo I decorated type in the Mesa Verde region (Abel, 1955, Ware 12A Type 1). The site was not occupied at this time. It is possible the sherd came from a Basketmaker III or Pueblo I site, though none was located in the vicinity of Big Juniper House.
One whole Piedra Black-on-white bowl (fig. 45) and other later pottery were associated with Burial 4. The bowl was probably an heirloom and not made during the occupation of Big Juniper House. Piedra Black-on white is the Pueblo I black-on-white type dated about A.D. 750 to 900 (Reed, 1958, p. 79). Two Piedra Black on-white sherds were also found and may have derived from heirloom vessels or possibly drift from an as yet undiscovered Pueblo I site.
The 566 Cortez Black-on-white sherds comprise 7.6 percent of the total Mesa Verde White Ware sherds (table 3). Six whole or partially restorable vessels were also found (fig. 46). Three hundred and sixteen of the sherds are from bowls, of which 177 are rim sherds. Bowl sherds with corrugated exterior represent 4 percent of the Cortez Black-on-white sherds. The Cortez jar sherds number 250, of which 12 are rim sherds.
This type was made in the form of bowls, jars or ollas, seed jars, pitchers, ladles, pipes, miniatures, and some eccentric forms. Designs are predominantly painted with a mineral pigment and usually confined to bowl and ladle interiors and jar exteriors. Design is rim oriented and most often a combination of several elements or motifs repeated in panels on the decorative field. Narrow lines, interlocking scrolls, and ticked lines are common design motifs.
Cortez Black-on-white was undoubtedly the first of the black-on-white types produced at Big Juniper House. The dates of manufacture are early Pueblo II, about A.D. 900 to 1000 (Abel, 1955, Ware 12A, Type 3), but it may have been made for the next 100 years in minor quantities, according to our findings.
Paint on the sherds was 98.7 percent mineral pigment and 1.3 percent organic pigment. One or two sherds showed both types of paint in combination (fig. 53i). Carbon paint was most likely to be found on sherds with a scroll design (table 4). There is convincing evidence from two Wetherill Mesa sites, Badger House and Two Raven House, that the percentage of carbon-painted Cortez Black-on-white was greater at the beginning of its manufacture than at the end.
The use of carbon paint in the Mesa Verde region was probably at its lowest point near the end of Cortez Black-on-white pottery production. In no other type was the percentage of carbon paint so reduced. Mineral pigment was predominant through Mancos Black-on-white and dropped off to minor percentages when McElmo Black-on-white was produced. By the end of the Mesa Verde occupation, the use of mineral pigment was negligible. However, in the Yellow Jacket district, mineral paint continued to show a high frequency of McElmo Black-on-white and only became a minor factor when Mesa Verde Black-on-white was made (Joe Ben Wheat, personal communication).
Design layout is primarily one of the repeated elements and combinations of elements filling the field of decoration. Band layout is also popular, but never constitutes a majority of layouts. The most frequently used motif in band layouts is the interlocking scroll, repeated in the band and usually just under the rim in bowl interiors, and one or more bands on jar exteriors (figs. 46a, c, and f, and 47).
The commonest form of design combination is narrow lines with other motifs such as triangles (simple, ticked, or scalloped), ticked lines, broad lines, checkerboard, and interlocking scrolls. There are many other combinations of motifs also (figs. 48-52).
Single motifs or elements not used in combinations in a layout are triangles (often ticked or scalloped), squiggle hatch, interlocking scrolls (see above). often ticked, squiggle lines, narrow straight lines, ticked lines, cross hatch, and stepped figures (figs. 53 and 54). Table 4 shows the design classes and the frequency with which they are used on Cortez Black-on-white pottery.
Interiors of bowls and ladles and exteriors of jars and pitchers are usually slipped and polished. Slipping and polishing are less common on bowls and ladle exteriors and do not occur on jar and pitcher interiors. Crackling of the slipped and polished surface is common, but is not the same as the distinctive crackling found on the thick slipped Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Surface color is usually a grayish to chalky-white, and fire clouds on the surface are not uncommon, Rims are tapered and usually rounded, but a sizable minority are tapered and flattened on top. Rims are seldom untapered and flat on topa characteristic of Mesa Verde Black-on-white.
I examined 120 Cortez Black-on-white sherds for temper and recorded 41 with crushed rock (34.2 percent), another 41 with a combination of sherd and rock, 28 with sherd (23.3 percent), and 10 with sand (8.3 percent). This contradicts the statement made by Abel (1955, Ware 12A, Type 3) that Cortez Black-on-white is tempered exclusively with crushed rock.
Alden Hayes reports similar temper identifications, although with somewhat different percentages, from the Wetherill Mesa survey (Hayes, 1964, pp. 58-59). The foregoing suggests that temper is not a good diagnostic of this pottery type nor, for that matter, of the other types in the Mesa Verde region. No type is tempered exclusively with a single material. In the utility types, however, rock temper constitutes a large proportion of the tempering material.
One bowl sherd was found that can be termed a variant of Cortez Black-on-white. It is a polychrome rim sherd with the design done in red-brown paint on a tan filler, both of which are on a white slip (fig. 76s). I know of no reported polychrome sherds with a Cortez design and therefore believe it to be of little importance, other than as an interesting experiment or an anomaly caused by firing. Two probable Cortez Black-on-white sherds are from plates. This rare form is discussed later under Miscellaneous Ceramic Objects.
This pottery type makes up approximately 42 percent of the Mesa Verde White Ware sherds recovered from Big Juniper House and is the predominant decorated type (table 3). Of the 3,143 Mancos Black-on-white sherds, 1,935 are bowl sherds (941 rims); 104 of these sherds (including 51 rims). have corrugated exteriors. Of the 1,208 jar sherds, 55 are rim sherds. We also found 28 whole or partially restorable vessels. Corrugated exteriors account for about 3.3 percent of the total Mancos Black-on-white sherds, a slight decrease from Cortez Black-on-white. Figure 55 shows typical forms of corrugated exteriors on Mancos Black-on-white. One sherd had a coiled basket-impressed exterior (fig. 56).
Mancos Black-on-white was made in the form of bowls (fig. 57), jars (fig. 58), seed jars, pitchers (fig. 59), ladles (fig. 60), pipes, miniatures, perhaps mugs, and various eccentric forms. Paint is predominantly mineral and usually confined to bowl and ladle interiors and jar exteriors. Designs are usually of a single motif or element repeated in panels that are rim-oriented. The most common elements are diagonal straight-line hatching and broad linesboth usually arranged in rectilinear or triangular frets. Triangles are also popular design elements.
Abel (1955, Ware 12A, Type 5), suggests a time range for Mancos Black-on-white from A.D. 950 to 1150. Evidence from Badger House and Two Raven House points to a beginning for some Mancos design styles around 900. From the present evidence, 1150 seems to be a fairly good end date for this pottery in the Mesa Verde.
The percentage of carbon-painted sherds jumps from 1.3 percent in Cortez Black-on-white to 5.4 percent in Mancos Black-on-white. (See table 5 for the frequency of carbon-painted sherds in relation to the various design styles used on Mancos Black-on-white). Evidence from Badger House and Two Raven House indicates that the percentage of carbon paint used on Mancos Black-on-white increased in the course of its manufacture.
Two polychrome jar body sherds in our collection, which in all other ways were Mancos Black-on-white, suggest experimentation (fig. 77r). and, like the Cortez "Black-on-white" polychrome sherd, are considered an interesting variant of Mancos Black-on-white. Both jar sherds may have come from the same vessel. The broad-line designs were done in a dark red framed by black lines on a cream-colored slip.
Mancos Black-on-white design layout is usually in panels and bands, and, in the case of bowls, sometimes covers the entire surface. Panels are the predominant layout and are usually arranged in triangular or rectilinear frets. Checkerboard designs occur most frequently in band layouts, but triangles, simple lines often with pendent triangles, and other design styles are also used. Bands are never framed by lines as in McElmo Black-on-white or Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Figure 61 shows typical layouts of this type.
Although all of the design elements used on Cortez Black-on-white pottery also appear on Mancos Black-on-white, the way they are employed and the popularity of certain styles enable us to distinguish between the two. In Cortez, combinations of design elements and motifs are the most popular form of decoration; in Mancos, decorative elements and motifs are usually not combined. Combination designs account for only 5.6 percent of the various design styles employed on Mancos Black-on-white (fig. 62; table 5).
The most popular decoration on Mancos Black-on-white is a diagonal, straight-line hachure used as a filler between parallel lines which frequently form triangular or rectilinear frets (fig. 63). This style did not occur on Cortez Black-on-white sherds from this site as a single design, but did occur (in small numbers) in combination with other motifs. Diagonal, straight-line hatching combined with other motifs can be seen in the illustrations mentioned above.
Approximately 20 percent of all the Mancos Black-on-white sherds have the broad-line design style, which is almost nonexistent in Cortez Black-on-white sherds. The broad lines are usually arranged in triangular or rectilinear frets (fig. 64).
Triangles are probably used most frequently in the design pattern. They occur as solid triangles or as dots, broad and narrow lines, checkerboard, and hatching arranged to form triangles (fig. 65).
Other elements such as dots, squiggle hatch, cross hatch, checkerboard, and narrow lines are fairly common on Mancos Black-on-white (figs. 66-69).
Exterior decoration on bowls and ladles is more usual on Mancos Black-on-white than on Cortez Black-on-white and also shows more variety. Various arrangements of simple lines predominate, as well as designs not found on Cortez Black-on-white such as concentric circles and crosses (fig. 70).
Zoomorphic and geometric figures occur occasionally on Mancos Black-on-white bowl and ladle interiors (fig. 71), but they did not become popular until later, in Mesa Verde Black-on-white.
Rim decoration differs slightly from that of Cortez Black-on-white. One of the major differences is in the increased frequency of ticked rimsfrom 0.5 percent in Cortez Black-on-white to 3.1 percent of the Mancos Black-on-whiteand a corresponding decrease in solidly painted rims in Mancos as opposed to Cortez. Dot ticking is predominant, but several sherds showed diagonal slashes on the rim tops.
Interiors of bowls and ladles and exteriors of jars and pitchers are usually slipped and polished. Crackling of the slip is also common. Exteriors of bowls and ladles are also usually slipped and polished, but less frequently than the interiors. Jar and pitcher interiors are slipped just below the rim in rare instances. Color of the slipped surfaces is most often creamy white, less frequently slate gray. Unslipped surfaces usually have a grayish cast.
TABLE 5.PERCENTAGES OF DESIGN STYLES, CARBON PAINT, AND RIM DECORATION ON MANCOS BLACK-ON-WHITE SHERDS, BIG JUNIPER HOUSE
A sample of 160 Mancos Black-on-white sherds was examined microscopically, and 75 sherds had rock temper (about 46.9 percent), 27 sherd temper (about 16.9 percent), 48 sherd and rock temper (about 30 percent), 4 rock and sand temper (about 2.5 percent), 3 sand temper (about 1.9 percent), and another 3 sherds had sand and sherd temper.
These results disagree with Abel's (1955, Ware 12A, Type 5) statement that the only temper used in Mancos Black-on-white was crushed sherds. The number of variations in temper in these "good" Mancos Black-on-white sherds shows that temper is not a reliable criterion for pottery classification.
Generally, Mancos Black-on-white vessel shapes continue to be the same as those of Cortez Black-on-white. Bowls are steep-sided, approaching the vertical, but one restored bowl (fig. 57e) has exaggerated outsloping walls. Bowl bases generally are slightly rounded to flat; however, two bowls have indented bases, a characteristic usually confined to the black-on-white jars (fig. 57e and f). Several bowls, as in Cortez Black-on-white, have handles and lugs (fig. 72a-c).
Mancos Black-on-white jars usually have globular bodies with short, cylindrical necks. One has a corrugated neck (fig. 58b). The jars, or ollas, generally have opposed lateral strap handles often indented in the middle (fig. 58a-c) or, occasionally, coil handles placed at the greatest diameter of the jar and just under the painted design (fig. 72d). Bases have a shallow kickup or indentation. One partially restored rim neck and shoulder (fig. 58d), with rim fillet and slightly flaring rim, resembles Mancos Corrugated and Mummy Lake Gray jars.
Mancos Black-on-white pitchers are characterized by truncated, cone-shaped necks, meeting the body either at sharp or gently curving angles. Strap handles are common and are placed parallel or slightly diagonal to the long axis, beginning at the rim or just below and usually ending at some point on the angle where the neck and body meet. Bases are indented.
Ladles are straight-sided and tend to have flatter bases than bowls. Forms are the same as Cortez, but the scoop type or half-gourd ladle was definitely less popular than the bowl-and-handle variety. Tubular handles occur more frequently than on Cortez Black-on-white ladles, but the commonest handles are solid and flat, oblong, or round in cross section. They are usually placed about midway between the rim and base, but one ladle (fig. 70f) has a handle that projects directly from the base.
Other forms of vessels occurring in the Mancos Black-on-white collection from Big Juniper House are plates, miniatures, and a bird effigy vessel (fig. 66b).
This pottery type has long presented one of the more perplexing problems in Mesa Verde archeology. Controversy has ranged (and raged!) all the way from describing its characteristics and determining its associations, to questioning its validity as a type. I regard McElmo Black-on-white as a valid type, and in the chapters on architecture and stone artifacts I discuss cultural manifestations indicative of the period during which this type occurs. In the final chapter, I attempt to bring these manifestations together and draw some conclusions regarding the last stage of occupation at Big Juniper Housethe transition from Pueblo II to Pueblo III.
Three restorable vessels (fig. 73) and 127 sherds (figs. 74 and 75) are identified as McElmo Black-on-white, the latest type of Mesa Verde White Ware found at the site. The quantity of McElmo Black-on-white sherds is small compared to that of Mancos Black-on-white and Cortez Black-on-white. The terminal occupation of Big Juniper Houseduring late Pueblo II and early Pueblo III, prior to A.D. 1150was the most extensive. The scarcity of McElmo Black-on-white was thus not the result of few people living at the site, but rather because this pottery had just begun to be made at this time.
Findings at Fewkes' Unit Pueblo (O'Bryan, 1950, pp. 137-140) and at Sites 1230 and 1801 indicate that McElmo was probably the dominant decorated type at Mesa Verde from about 1150 to 1200, after which time Mesa Verde Black-on-white was the potters' choice.
The McElmo Black-on-white pottery described here is the McElmo of early Pueblo III. It was made from about 1100 to 1200, with a possibility of slightly earlier beginnings about 1050 to 1080. The question of the viability of McElmo Black-on-white after 1200 is one I will not attempt to answer here. Its time span can be established by those who are working with late Pueblo III sites. After 1200, McElmo Black-on-white is clearly superseded by Mesa Verde Black-on-white. The McElmo of early Pueblo III is clearly distinguishable both from Mancos Black-on-white (which preceded it) and from Mesa Verde Black-on-white (which followed it).
Much of McElmo Black-on-white has been classed as "sloppy" Mesa Verde Black-on-white. But most of the McElmo of early Pueblo III can be described as having boldly executed designs. Crude Mesa Verde Black-on-white pottery was very likely produced by potters who had little decorative skill. The pots with "sloppy" designs but with most of the other characteristics of Mesa Verde Black-on-white should be considered within the range of Mesa Verde Black-on-white rather than confusing the issue by classifying them as McElmo Black-on-white. One can find examples of atypical vessels in all periods of Mesa Verde occupation that are fully contemporary with the standard forms.
Early Pueblo III McElmo Black-on-white vessel forms represented by the sherd collections from Big Juniper House and whole or partially restored vessels from Big Juniper House and from Sites 1230 and 1801 are bowls, shallow bowls or plates, ladles, jars or ollas, seed jars, and, rarely, mugs and pitchers. (Kiva jars and effigy forms such as bird and submarine vessels were not found at these sites.)
McElmo Black-on-white bowl shapes and wall thicknesses are more like Mancos Black-on-white than Mesa Verde Black-on-white. At the same time, McElmo bowls tend to be more hemispherical than Mancos. Rims are more squared than Mancos but more tapered than Mesa Verde. There seems to be relatively little difference in surface finish, color, and slip between Mancos and McElmo. On the other hand, jar shapes are more similar to Mesa Verde: more squat, with wider diameter necks and more flaring rims, than Mancos; and they usually possess unindented strap handles, rather than the indented form so typical of Mancos jars. Ladle shapes are similar to Mancos ladles, but tubular handles are more common on McElmo than on Mancos ladles.
A major difference from Mancos is the high frequency of carbon paint on McElmoapproximately 90 percent in the sherds from Big Juniper House. But, as noted earlier, mineral pigment continued to occur very commonly on McElmo in the Yellow Jacket district.
Rim decoration shows change from Mancos Black-on-white and is an important diagnostic (see table 5). Approximately 37 percent of the rims are ticked, usually with round and somewhat irregular dots, and about the same percentage of rims are plain with no decoration. Only about 10 percent are painted solid. The rest of the rims are indeterminate.
An important difference from Mesa Verde Black-on-white is the lack of exterior decoration on the early McElmo bowl sherds from Big Juniper House. Long House has provided convincing data to support this observation.
We can distinguish the early McElmo Black-on-white from other types by decorative style. Broad, boldly executed lines employed either in bands parallel to the rim or in triangular or rectilinear frets are the most common designs. Combinations of motifs and elements are also popular and represent a significant difference in design preference from Mancos Black-on-white. Diagonal, straight-line hachure is used as a single design style, but it is not as frequent as in Mancos and is generally better executed. Bands of design with framing lines occur in minor numbers, but the framing lines are usually all the same width and not as well drawn as in Mesa Verde Black-on-white. Other design elements are dots, triangles, diamonds or negative diamonds created by opposed triangles, stepped figures in combination with other elements, narrow lines, and a few miscellaneous elements.
Examining a sample of 50 McElmo Black-on-white sherds under a microscope, I found 20 had crushed sherd temper (40 percent), 15 sherd and rock temper (30 percent), 11 rock temper (22 percent), and 4 sand temper (8 percent). These figures show that sherd temper increased, and rock temper definitely decreased, in comparison to Mancos Black-on-white. Sand-tempered sherds also show an increase in percentage from Mancos, but it is quite similar to the percentage of sand-tempered Cortez Black-on-white sherds.
A pottery type described by Hayes (1964, pp. 63-64) under the name Wetherill Black-on-white overlaps, in part, the McElmo Black-on-white of the 13th century. This type was subsequently dropped by the Wetherill Mesa Project on the grounds that it included two different things: primarily carbon-paint Mancos Black-on-white, and a little McElmo Black-on-white. Excavations carried out since the survey of Wetherill Mesa was completed have shown that Mancos Black-on-white includes some carbon-painted pottery and that this material should not be considered a separate type.
Last Updated: 16-Jan-2007