Big Juniper House of Mesa Verde, Colorado
Wetherill Mesa Studies
NPS Logo

Chapter 3
ceramics (continued)


About 0.3 percent of the total sample from Big Juniper House—48 sherds—were identified as San Juan Red Ware on the basis of their distinctive paste and appearance. Although this ware was presumably made in the Mesa Verde area, prototypes of it may have been imported from the Alkali Ridge area to the northwest, where it occurs in much greater quantity, or possibly from the La Plata region to the east.

I have separated San Juan Red Ware into two classes: Abajo Red-on-orange and Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red. The latter class is described in the literature under two types, separated primarily on the presence or absence of a slip. Bluff Black-on-red is described as unslipped and having somewhat less finely executed designs than La Plata Black-on-red, characterized as slipped pottery. I have found that such distinctions are extremely difficult to recognize. Another feature that makes separation difficult is variation in surface and paint color. The surface ranges from orange to shades of red. Paint color ranges from almost-red, to reddish-brown, purple, and black. These features crosscut the design styles and, in a sample this small, produce confusion. I have evaded the issue and called it Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red, hoping that larger samples from other sites on Wetherill Mesa may clear up this problem.

Sherds with color and design style close to the description of Abajo Red-on-orange (Brew, 19-46, p. 25-4) were identified as Abajo Red-on-orange. There is a possibility, as explained below, that Abajo may have been made for a longer time than it was in the Alkali Ridge area.

Sherds which had little or no design, but whose other characteristics remained more or less constant, were lumped under Unclassified San Juan Red Ware.

Abajo Red-on-orange

There is evidence from Big Juniper House and other Wetherill Mesa sites that Abajo Red-on-orange lasted somewhat later than the terminal date of A.D. 850 given by Abel (1955, Ware 5A, Type 1). Because there is no evidence of a Pueblo I occupation at Big Juniper House, we can assume that Abajo Red-on-orange was probably made into the early 900's.

Bowls and jars are the only forms represented by the nine sherds from Big Juniper House (fig. 76e-g). Both Brew and Abel have said that Abajo Red-on-orange does not include the pitcher form. However, a gourd-shaped pitcher found with a burial at Site 1291 seems to be Abajo Red-on-orange in most of its features. Pitcher sherds of Abajo have been found at other sites on Wetherill Mesa.

Fig. 76 Local red ware, trade ware, and local polychrome sherds: Puerco Black-on-red, a, b; Win gate Black-on-red, c, d; Abajo Red-on-orange, e-g; Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red, h-p; Tusayan Polychrome, q; polychrome variation of Mancos Black-on-white, r; and polychrome variation of Cortez Black-on-white, s. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red

The 19 sherds in the collection which were classified as Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red show a greater range in surface and paint color than was indicated in published descriptions (fig. 76h-p). There seems to be a good deal of confusion regarding these types, and I agree with Reed (1958, p. 131) that one solution is to include all these variations under one type—under Bluff Black-on-red, as he suggests, or under Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red, as is done here. Another type, La Plata Black-on-orange, discussed at some length by Reed (1958, pp. 128-129), is a common color variation on the sherds from Big Juniper House, and there is no evidence from this site or others excavated by the Wetherill Mesa Project that it precedes the black-on-reds. Bowls and jars are the only forms represented by the sherds from Big Juniper House.

At Site 1291, a Bluff-La Plata Black-on-red bowl was found with a burial, along with the Abajo Red-on-orange pitcher described above. The bowl has a rather poorly executed black design on what appears to be a reddish-orange slip. It also has been well polished. To my knowledge, this is the only complete vessel of the type that has been found in the park.

Unclassified San Juan Red Ware

Twenty sherds could not be classified, but paste and color characteristics placed them in the San Juan Red Ware. Several sherds, with no paint but bright orange in surface color, may be plain sections of decorated vessels. The other sherds had painted designs that were not complete enough to be typed.

<<< Previous <<< Contents>>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 16-Jan-2007