Western Ceramic Traditions

Prehistoric and Historic Native American Ceramics of the Western U.S.

University of Utah Anthropological Papers No. 135

This volume is dedicated to studies of plainwares—the undecorated ceramics that make up the majority of prehistoric ceramic assemblages worldwide. Early analyses of ceramics focused on changes in decorative design elements to establish chronologies and cultural associations. With the development of archaeometric techniques that allow direct dating of potsherds and identification of their elemental composition and residues, plainwares now provide a new source of information about the timing, manufacture, distribution, and use of ceramics.

This book investigates plainwares from the far west, stretching into the Great Basin and the northwestern and southwestern edges of Arizona. Contributors use and explain recent analytical methods, including neutron activation, electron microprobe analysis, and thin-section optical mineralogy. They examine native ceramic traditions and how they were influenced by the Spanish mission system, and they consider the pros and cons of past approaches to ware typology, presenting a vision of how plainware analysis can be improved by ignoring the traditional “typological” approach of early ceramicists working with decorated wares.

This work provides a much-needed update to plainware studies, with new hypotheses and data that will help set the stage for future research.

Suzanne Griset is an archaeologist, ethnographer, and ceramics analyst for SWCA Environmental Consultants in Tucson, Arizona. She has worked for numerous federal agencies and was formerly head of the Collections Division at the Arizona State Museum. She edited Pottery of the Great Basin and Adjacent Areas

Table of Contents:

List of Figures
List of Tables
1. When a Pot Drop is Not: Archaeological and Cultural Contexts of Ceramic Scatters in the Colorado Desert, California 
Jerry Schaefer
2. At the Edge of the Desert and West of the Sea: Ceramics from Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Suzanne Griset
3. Patayan Transport of Hohokam Ceramics to the Colorado Desert, California
Jerry Schaefer
4. Evidence of Long-Distance Exchange from the Robbers Mountain Region, West-Central Mojave Desert
Helen F. Wells
5. Geochemical and Luminescence Insights into the Cultural Transmission of Clay and Temper Recipes in Southern Owens Valley, California
Jelmer W. Eerkens, Jeffrey R. Ferguson, and Carl P. Lipo
6. Using Luminescence Dating to Address the Chronology and Cultural Affiliation of Brownware Ceramics in the Virgin Branch Puebloan Region
Karen G. Harry and Sachiko Sakai
7. A Functional Analysis of Upland and Lowland Virgin Branch Ceramics through Residue Analysis
Brenna Wilkerson, Karen G. Harry, and Spencer M. Steinberg
8. A Regional Analysis of Brownware in Colonial Period Chumash Sites
Catherine Bailey
9. The Brownware Ceramic Traditions at Mission San Gabriel Archángel
Suzanne Griset
10. Mineralogy of Locally Produced Ceramics from Mission Santa Clara de Asís
Sarah Peelo, Christina Spellman, Chester Liwosz, Linda Hylkema, and Stella D’Oro
11. Directions Forward for Ceramic Studies in the Far Southwest
Don Laylander

Praise and Reviews:

“The applications and results of the variety of analytical methods reported in this volume are of substantial interest. The reader will be encouraged by the data to make use of these techniques. This work is important due to limited recent publications on current archaeological ceramic and analytic methods and results. It will invite future research.”
—Sue Wade, archaeologist/historian, owner Heritage Resources, Associate State Archaeologist CA State Parks retired 

“There is a general feeling in the ceramics community in southern California and western Arizona that, at least related to the Lower Colorado and its brown ware equivalents, research has stalled in its progress with identifying meaningful theories about how the pottery equates to the actual people. Two problems that have become more apparent in the last couple of years are those of typologies and chronologies. This volume throws significant light on these issues.”
—Greg Seymour, research associate, Great Basin Institute