The Excavation and Repair of Betatakin
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The half dozen specimens we recovered afford no adequate conception of the variety of earthenware vessels employed in Betatakin nor of the skill that went into their making. From shards gathered on débris heaps, something could be written of local technique; of different wares and their characteristic types of paste, surface treatment and decoration. But this has already been done by those diligent, painstaking observers, Kidder and Guernsey.22

22See Kidder-Guernsey, 1919, pp. 129-143; Kidder, 1924, pp. 68-74.

Let us briefly consider the few pieces in hand since they are the only ones in the National Museum collections known to have come from Betatakin.23 Our two whole vessels (pl. 46, 1, 3) are both polychrome. The flat-topped colander (1) was finished with a red slip, except for a narrow, cream-colored band around the shoulder; on this smooth red surface black geometric decorations were painted and outlined in white. Ornamentation is confined to the body and to the slightly depressed rim. The flat bottom is perforated by 41 holes, one-eighth inch in diameter, punched through from the outside. This is the strainer previously noted as having been found in the hole pecked in the stone floor of room 121.

23Accesion 52301, transferred from the Bureau of American Ethnology, includes a number of vessels perhaps erroneously credited to Betatakin by the collector, Dr. J. W Fewkes. Certainly they display none of the distinguishing features of Kayenta, or even proto-Kayenta, Wares. In the report on his preliminary visit, Fewkes implies (1911, p. 26) that fragments only were gathered at this site.

To the gray paste of the small handled jar (3), a brown paint was applied from the rim to just below the maximum diameter; over this, black designs were drawn and bordered with white. The larger jar (5) likewise was rubbed to a near-polish with waterworn pebbles then ornamented directly with broad, brown bands, outlined with a darker paint that may be regarded as an impure black. The same pigment was employed in tracing the coarse, parallel lines that occupy the interspaces. Bits of wood, gourd rind, and fragments of broken pottery (fig. 22) were employed as scrapers in the manufacture of earthenware vessels.


Of the two bowls, both restored, the larger (6) was first coated inside and out with a thin red slip, polished and then decorated with a coarsely hachured, convoluted design in black. Ornamentation is limited to its inner surface. The smaller specimen (2) has an out-flaring rim and a single, horizontally placed loop-handle—two characteristic features of bowls belonging to the principal Kayenta culture. But this particular vessel bears no decoration whatsoever. Its exterior was roughly smoothed; its inner surface was covered with a cream-colored slip and polished. Variation in Betatakin bowl rims is shown by Figure 23, drawn from fragments in our shard collection.


In this same series are segments of four shallow, platelike vessels with perforated edges (fig. 24), a type limited in distribution, as far as I am aware, to the Kayenta district, and to Jadito Valley, southeast of the modern Hopi villages. Fewkes24 illustrates a restored specimen, 5-1/4 inches (0.133 m.) in diameter, from the Marsh Pass region; Kidder and Guernsey25 observed fragments of similar dishes on ruins in the same locality and were so fortunate as to recover half of a 13-inch (0.330 m.) plate, threaded with strips of yucca, at Sunflower House, on the south margin of Skeleton Mesa some 2 miles below the mouth of Segi Canyon. Both their pronounced shallowness and their marginal perforations attract attention to these unusual vessels. What purpose they originally served remains undetermined. Hough appears to be the only one who has ventured an opinion. After noting the occurrence of fragments in large numbers at Kawaiokuh and their relative infrequence at Kokopnyama, protohistoric Hopi villages in Jadito Valley, he conjectures the use of such plates as "revolving rests for ware during the process of manufacture."26

241911, pl. 15, b.

251919, p. 143.

26See Walter Hough: Archaeological Field work in Northeastern Arizona. The Museum-Gates Expedition of 1901. U. S. National Museum, 1901, An. Rept., pp. 337 and 343. Washington, 1903.


In other words, a rotative disk that could be turned as the formative vessel it supported took shape—nearest aboriginal approach in the New World to the potter's wheel.

Like the two jars previously mentioned, the broken ladle shown in Plate 46, 4 received no surface slip. It bears no trace of ornamentation either within the bowl or on its flat, solid handle. In prehistoric times, as to-day, Pueblo potters habitually modeled a ladle handle separately and frequently attached it by inserting one end through a hole punched in the still plastic clay of the bowl, the union then being smoothed over and completely obliterated. This union, in the case of tubular handles, was occasionally strengthened by a cylindrical clay plug, molded separately and introduced from the bowl after the handle was joined to its exterior, (Fig. 25.)


Miniature vessels (fig. 26).—These two tiny specimens are perhaps to be regarded as toys for small girls. The larger was crudely modeled and sundried; the smaller, on the other hand, is quite regular in shape and fired. On its inner surface are striations left by the scraping tool. Part of a third miniature vessel (312254) is also present.


Effigy fragment.—Kidder and Guernsey27 found two small effigies on the surface at Ruin A, Marsh Pass. Our Betatakin fragment (312306) is the head from a very similar, though less realistic, specimen. The face is flat—a bit of gray clay pressed between thumb and index finger. The nose is not indicated; eyes and mouth are represented merely by pricks made with a bone awl or like instrument. From this head the neck and rectangular body, if any, have been broken. It should be noted that the specimen is unfired.

271919, p. 143.

Clay pellet (312314).—A flattish ball of molded red clay, 1-3/8 inches (0.034 m.) in diameter by 7/8 inch (0.022 m.) thick, is in the collection. With like balls, no doubt, village boys improved their marksmanship, for daubs of variate clay still adhere to the higher walls of Betatakin cave, clustered about casual targets.

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Last Updated: 26-Jun-2008