Big Juniper House of Mesa Verde, Colorado
Wetherill Mesa Studies
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Chapter 3
ceramics (continued)


A number of objects excluded from the discussion of pottery types are described here. Plates, mentioned under Cortez Black-on-white and Mancos Black-on-white pottery, are described in detail in this section.

Worked Sherds

A total of 157 sherds were worked (ground or chipped, or both) in a variety of ways to produce tools, ornaments, bowls and plates from larger vessel forms, and other in determinate objects. The worked sherds are classified into 10 types with various subtypes on the basis of modification, form, shape, and, when possible, function. Below are summaries of each type. Table 6 lists the types and subtypes by provenience and table 7 lists the worked sherd types by pottery types.

Fifty-seven sherds from bowls and jars, ground on one edge only, are designated Type 1. The sherds are divided into four subtypes on the basis of form and size (fig. 77). Large and small jar sherds compose Subtypes 1A and 1B, and large and small bowl sherds make up Subtypes 1C and 1D. Their function is uncertain, but many of them would have been excellent surface-finishing tools for pottery. Some of the larger sherds may have been used as scoops or ladles. Most of the wear is on the exterior or convex surface, giving the edge a distinctly beveled profile.

Fig. 77 Type 1 worked sherds, ground on one edge (worked edges at the top). Subtype 1A (large jar sherds), a-d; Subtype 1B (small jar sherds), e-i; Subtype 1C (large bowl sherds), j-l; and Subtype 1D (small bowl sherds), m-q. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

(click to view Table 6 in a separate window)

Forty-two sherds ground on two or more edges, with part of the perimeter unworked, are classed as Type 2. The specimens are divided into four subtypes in the same manner as Type 1 (fig. 78). Exact function is problematical, but the same possibilities exist as in Type 1.

Fig. 78 Type 2 worked sherds, ground on two or more edges, with part of perimeter unworked. Subtype 2A, a-c; Subtype 2B, d-h; Subtype 2C, i-k; and Subtype 2D, l-p. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Seven sherds with the entire perimeter ground, designated Type 3, are divided into two subtypes: 3A, bowl sherds, and 3B, jar sherds (fig. 79). These sherds do not fall into any particular shape or size categories, and their functions are open to question.

Fig. 79 Type 3 worked sherds, entire perimeter ground. Subtype 3A (bowl sherds), a, c, e; and Subtype 3B (jar sherds), b, d, f. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

On the basis of shape and quality of work, 18 worked sherds may have been pendant blanks, designated Type 4 (fig. 80). There are no drilled holes or grooves, so their function is not definite. They are divided into four subtypes, according to shape: 4A keystone; 4B, rectangular; 4C, oval or rounded; and 4D, irregular.

Fig. 80 Type 4 worked sherds, possible pendant blanks. Subtype 4A (keystone), a-c; Subtype 4B (rectangular), d-g; Subtype 4C (oval or rounded), h-k; and Subtype 4D (irregular), l, m. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

Seven sherds were recognized as definite pendants because of shape and the presence of biconical holes presumably drilled for stringing (fig. 81). These specimens, classified as Type 5, are also divided into subtypes on the basis of shape: 5A, rectangular; 5B, teardrop; 5C, oblong or oval; 5D, circular or discoidal; and 5E, indeterminate. One 5C pendant has a biconical hole started, but not completely drilled, in each face.

Fig. 81 Type 5 worked sherds, pendants. Subtype 5A (rectangular), b, c; Subtype 5B (teardrop), f; Subtype 5C (oblong or oval), d, e; Subtype 5D (circular or discoidal), a; and Subtype 5E (indeterminate), g. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

(click to view Table 7 in a separate window)

Eight disk sherds, classified as Type 6, are often chipped around the perimeter and sometimes ground over the chipping (fig. 82). These forms occur widely in the Southwest, but their function is not known.

Fig. 82 Type 6 worked sherds, disks, often chipped around perimeter, some with grinding over chipping. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

An unusual category of worked sherds, designated Type 7, is represented by nine ladle sherds, with grinding usually on broken sections (figs. 83b-e, and 84). One section, ground smooth at both ends and with a small groove engraved around the circumference at one end, may have been a pendant (fig. 84, right). A possible use of worked tubular handles has been suggested by an artifact that Carolyn Osborne, who studied various museum collections for the project, observed at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. The object, originally from the McLoyd and Graham collection from Utah, is a piercer or dagger, consisting of a wooden pile and a tubular ladle handle as the grip (fig. 85). Our tubular ladle sherds may have had the same use.

Fig. 83 Type 7 worked sherds, derived from ladles, with grinding usually on broken section of handle, b-e; and Type 10 worked sherd, miscellaneous category, a.

Fig. 84 Type 7 worked sherds. At left, top and bottom views of solid, flat ladle handle; at right, part of ladle fashioned into possible pendant.

Fig. 85 Wooden piercer or dagger inserted into tubular handle (two views), indicating possible use of Type 7 worked sherds. Overall length about 25 cm.; handle only, about 9 cm. (Photo courtesy The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania.)

Two bases from Mancos Black-on-white bowls and one plain base from a black-on-white jar classified as Type 8, were ground on the edges to form plates (fig. 86). None of them are whole. The worked jar base had fugitive red pigment over the entire inside surface and may have served as a paint palette. These sherds may also have been used as pukis, or platforms for rotating vessels during their construction (Guthe, 1925).

Fig. 86 Type 8 worked sherds, formed into plates.

Three complete or fragmentary bases of corrugated jars, shaped into shallow bowls or possible pukis, are designated Type 9 (fig. 87). Two were chipped and slightly ground on the perimeter, but the third was chipped only on the edge.

Fig. 87 Type 9 worked sherds, jar sherds worked into bowls; interiors at left, exteriors at right. Top sherd, 22 cm. in diameter; bottom sherd, 24.8 cm. in longest dimension.

Three sherds that do not fit into the other categories are classified as Type 10. The sherd illustrated (fig. 83a) is the indented base of a black-on-white jar. It is well ground on the exterior bordering the kickup, and the broken edge was chipped and lightly ground. It resembles a miniature bowl. The other two sherds are from a Cortez Black-on-white jar and from a black-on-white jar or pitcher. The Cortez sherd shows wear on the exterior surface which might have resulted from use of the jar prior to breakage. The third specimen shows work on the broken edge of the single coil handle and part of a broken rim edge. Its function is not known.

Miniature Vessels

A number of miniature jar, bowl, and ladle sherds, and one complete miniature ladle, both decorated and undecorated, fired and unfired, were found during the excavation (table 8). They are tentatively identified as ceremonial objects or toys. Table 8 lists the miniature vessels and sherds by form and provenience.

The miniature bowl sherds (fig. 88) were assigned to the following pottery types: Mancos Black-on-white (2); plain, from a black-on-white bowl (2); and unfired, plain bowl sherds (2) one with fugitive red pigment on both exterior and interior surfaces.

Fig. 88 Miniature bowl sherds. Left, longest dimension 4.7 cm.

Miniature ladle sherds (fig. 89) belonged to the following types: Cortez Black-on-white (1); unclassified black-on-white (1); and plain, probably no design intended (2). There was one complete miniature ladle, probably Mancos Black-on-white (fig. 90).

Fig. 89 Miniature ladle sherds. Top sherd, probably Cortez Black-on-white, 3.7 cm. in length; bottom sherd, plain, 7.0 cm. in length.

Fig. 90 Miniature ladle, probably Mancos Black-on-white, 10.1 cm. in length.


BowlsLadlesJarsSeed jarsTotals
South Trash Mound619117
Area 12----1--1
Test Trench 15----1--1
Room 7, fill1------1
Room 8, fill--1----1
Room 11, fill11----2
Room 19, fill1------1
Kiva B, Level 1 and Test Trench 152--8--10
Kiva B, fill--1----1
Kiva B, Cist 1--1----1
Kiva C, fill----112

Miniature jar sherds (fig. 91) included: Cortez Black-on-white (2); unclassified black-on-white (2); plain, from black-on-white jars (3); corrugated (4); plain fired, probably no design intended (2); and plain unfired (7). Of the unfired group, four sherds had shapes similar to the normal-size Mummy Lake Gray, Mancos, or Mesa Verde Corrugated. Two of these unfired plain sherds had corrugated interiors. Two miniature seed jar sherds were a probable Cortez Black-on-white and an unclassified black-on-white.

Fig. 91 Miniature jar sherds: corrugated, a; Cortez Black-on-white, 4.5 cm. in length, b; and plain, 4.2 cm. in width, c.


We found four sherds from plates—two Mancos Black-on-white (fig. 92) and two probable Cortez Black-on-white (fig. 93). This form is not included in published descriptions of these two pottery types. Plate sherds were also found at Badger House. The sherds in each collection show similar attributes. Exteriors are roughly finished, usually by indented-corrugation or unindented coiling, and there is a rim fillet on the exterior. The specimens from Big Juniper House have a thin slip applied over the partially obliterated, indented-corrugated exteriors. One of the Mancos Black-on-white sherds has been ground over a section of the rim, perhaps to smooth a broken edge (fig. 92a).

Fig. 92 Mancos Black-on-white plate sherds; interiors at top, exteriors at bottom.

Fig. 93 Cortez Black-on-white plate fragment; interior at left, exterior at right. Diameter about 22 cm., height about 4.5 cm. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)


Two figurines were found, one almost complete and the other broken near the distal end. The latter, possibly representing a skunk or badger, may have been a handle (fig. 94, two views at left). It is black-on-white, painted with organic pigment. The nearly complete figurine is a very crude; it is plain gray and fired, but unslipped and unpolished (fig. 94, right). It has the appearance of a foetus with flipper-like extremities.

Fig. 94 Figurines. Left, top and end views of carbon-painted effigy handle (?); right, plain gray, 6.4 cm. in length.


Two probable pipe fragments, a bowl and a hit end, were found during excavation (fig. 95). From personal observation of the various collections obtained from other sites in Mesa Verde National Park, I would say that pipes occur more frequently in Cortez Black-on-white and the earlier plain gray pottery than in Mancos Black-on-white and later pottery.

Fig. 95 Fragments of pipes (?).

Unfired Sherds

A group of 220 sherds, all probably from the same jar, was found in Cist 1 of Room 5. The sherds are unfired and have a red design on a gray, slipped surface. Undoubtedly, the vessel broke before firing. If it had been fired, it might have been a Cortez Black-on-white jar. Three unfired and undecorated sherds from normal-size vessels were also found.

Fugitive Red Sherds

Nineteen sherds had fugitive red pigment on either the decorated or undecorated surface and were probably used for mixing paint. The following types were represented by these sherds: Mancos Black-on-white (9); Cortez Black-on-white (4); McElmo Black-on-white (1); unclassified black-on-white (2); plain, probably from a black-on-white jar (1); and corrugated body sherds, with fugitive red on the interior surface only (2).

Other Objects

Two modeled objects of unfired, undecorated clay were found. One is a teardrop-shaped pendant or bead from Cist 1 of Kiva B (fig. 96, left). It has a perforation at the narrow end made by a small round object when the clay was still plastic. It is almost identical to one found at Badger House. The other modeled object is a roll of clay, of unknown purpose, from Test Trench 11, South Trash Mound (fig. 96, right).

Fig. 96 Modeled objects of unfired, undecorated clay. Left, 2.2 cm. in length; right, roll of clay, 4.5 cm. in length.

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Last Updated: 16-Jan-2007