Thursday, April 5, 2012

Southwest Ceramics: Analysis and Sourcing

Heidke, James M. and Judith A. Habicht-Mauche
1998 The First Occurrences and Early Distribution of Pottery in the American Southwest Revista de Arquelogía Americana 14:65-99
    James Heidke and Judith Habicht-Mauche make a rather interesting argument in this article by stating that the origin of ceramics in the American Southwest is not a single event, but three episodes of development (Heidke and Habicht-Mauche 1998). The first episode is the original development of ceramics, which the authors state occurred at different times in different areas of the Southwest. They stare however that the very first evidence of ceramics comes from the Sonoran desert, dated at about the first millennium BC, but later in other regions.
    The authors place the second episode at approximately AD 150. It is characterized as a “container revolution”, where the ceramics of the Southwest became far more sophisticated. They state that this is indicative of both increased sedentism and more reliance on cultigens. This seems to have occurred throughout the Southwest in different forms, but comparative analysis shows that there were what the authors call avenues of interaction and possibly movement, which results in similarities in ceramic styles across geographic distances.
    The third episode occurs at around AD 500 or 550 and is characterized by the time when ceramics become essential to life. According to Heidke and Habicht-Mauche, this is also the time at which regional and technological differences emerge to reflect the ceramic traditions of the Southwest. It is at this point that ceramics often develop decorations that are socially and/or religiously significant.
    In their analysis of the distribution of pottery, the authors mention two major issues; firstly that early pottery is often quite crude and crumbly, so it may be hard to find the earliest ceramics. Secondly, there is the fact that distribution is often quite sporadic and difficult to track accurately. Further, it is difficult to get a proper sense of how a society develops by only looking at ceramics, so a proper analysis would have to take other factors into consideration.

Toll, H. Wolcott
2001 Making and Breaking Pots in the Chaco World American Antiquity 66(1):56-78
    This article concerns the four types of ceramics found in Chaco sites. Pottery first appeared on the Colorado Plateau around 400 AD. By the time period of the Chaco sites, there were four primary types of ceramics: smudged brown ware, red ware, white ware, and gray ware. All four types come from different areas, but they use the same technological methods. It is simply regional differences in terms of particular resources. The author determined that while mass production only occurred in northern areas, such as Mesa Verde, there was variable production happening throughout the region. Interesting, after 1000 AD, ceramics production slowed in Chaco Canyon, but increased in other regions (Toll 2001).
    The primary analysis method used for this article was stratigraphy. The author looked at the layers, each of which, he says, takes about sixty or seventy years to accumulate. This allowed him to date when certain ceramics came to certain areas. There are ceramics in Chaco Canyon that are contemporary with a great deal of construction debris, indicating that there was a large works project in the area at that time. Directly above the construction debris layer is “a series of distinct, artifact-rich layers consisting of post-1040 ceramics” (Toll 2001). Firstly, this indicates that even though Chaco Canyon’s ceramics production had decreased, they were still getting ceramics from other sites. Secondly, we see that the ceramics are deposited in sudden bursts, which Toll suggests are indicative of seasonal occurrences that would draw large numbers of people to the mound at certain times of the year. This would imply that
    The most common import to Chaco Canyon is gray ware from the Chuska valley, a distance of seventy kilometers. There is evidence that production increased in the Chuska valley, which I alluded to earlier, because of higher demand from the Chaco Canyon. The author does not provide any explanation for why production in Chaco Canyon decreased while demand for it increased.

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