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Curator’s Choice: Tonto Polychrome Olla

April 2012

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Photos by Natalia Gabrielsen

ca. 1340-1450 C.E.
Salado
Gila County, Arizona

Pottery

Scale relative to Scale relative to a human hand

Scale relative to a human hand

Length: 8.1 in. (20.5 cm.), Maximum diameter: 13.2 in. (33.5 cm.)

Dr. Michael A. Cusanovich Collection
Gift of Dr. Marilyn J. Halonen, 2011

(ASM Catalog No. 2011-272-1)

Text by Patrick Lyons, Head of Collections
April 13, 2012

This is one of three ancient ceramic vessels donated to ASM in honor of Michael Anthony Cusanovich, Ph.D. (1942–2010). Dr. Cusanovich joined the University of Arizona in 1969 as an Assistant Professor of chemistry, eventually holding the following positions over his nearly forty years as a faculty member: Professor of Chemistry, Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, Director of Arizona Research Laboratories, and Regents’ Professor of Biochemistry. As Vice President for Research, Dr. Cusanovich oversaw and was a vigorous supporter of ASM. This object is featured as part of the Curator’s Choice series in order to commemorate Dr. Cusanovich’s passing, in April of 2010, and also because of its ability to communicate key research findings.

Tonto Polychrome is a pottery type within the larger category referred to as Roosevelt Red Ware (or, more informally, “Salado polychromes”). These pottery types first appeared in the mountains of central Arizona during the late 1200s, associated with clues suggesting that they were developed by immigrants from the Kayenta region of far northeastern Arizona.

By the mid- to late 1300s, Tonto Polychrome and other Roosevelt Red Ware types were being produced in nearly every ancient community in the southern US Southwest, replacing local painted pottery traditions such as the red-on-buff and red-on-brown types associated with Hohokam groups. The available evidence suggests that the manufacture of Roosevelt Red Ware remained closely tied to northern immigrants and their descendants, who formed a diasporic community of dispersed but linked enclaves throughout central and southern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and northern Sonora and Chihuahua.

Patricia Crown, the researcher who has contributed the most to our understanding of Roosevelt Red Ware, has shown that these pottery types employ a series of painted icons that, among the contemporary tribal peoples of the U.S. Southwest, refer to fertility and moisture. Crown has drawn special attention to what she interprets as stylized horned or plumed serpent heads, imagery she associates with water serpents in Hopi and Zuni religion (Paalölöqangw and Kolowisi, respectively) and with the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl. She argues that Roosevelt Red Ware spread quickly because its designs expressed an inclusive ideology that supported the integration of immigrants and locals.

This vessel’s painted decoration betrays the heritage of its maker, in that the design is organized using a modification of the “Y-frame layout” unique to the Kayenta pottery tradition (the thick, red lines that divide the design into triangular panels). Some of the specific motifs used, especially the black triangles with F-shaped extensions, have been identified as possible representations of a horned or plumed serpent.

References

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Roosevelt Red Ware (“Salado polychrome”) Pottery

Colton, Harold S., and Lyndon L. Hargrave

  • 1937 Handbook of Northern Arizona Pottery Wares. Museum of Northern Arizona Bulletin No. 11. Northern Arizona Society of Science and Art, Flagstaff.

Crown, Patricia L.

  • 1994 Ceramics and Ideology: Salado Polychrome Pottery. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Gladwin, Winifred, and Harold S. Gladwin

  • 1930 Some Southwestern Pottery Types: Series I. Medallion Papers No. 8. Gila Pueblo, Globe.
    Full text version available onlineOpens in a new window from the Arizona Memory Project
    http://azmemory.lib.az.us/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/medallion&CISOPTR=947&REC=9

Haury, Emil W.

  • 1945 The Excavation of Los Muertos and Neighboring Ruins in the Salt River Valley, Southern Arizona, Based on the Work of the Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition of 1887-1888. Papers of the Peabody Museum of American Archaeology and Ethnology Vol. 24(1). Harvard University, Cambridge.

Lyons, Patrick D.

  • 2004 Cliff Polychrome. Kiva 69(4):361-400.

Neuzil, Anna A., and Patrick D. Lyons

  • 2006 An Analysis of Whole Vessels from the Mills Collection Curated at Eastern Arizona College, Thatcher, Arizona. Technical Report No. 2005-001. Center for Desert Archaeology, Tucson.
    Full text version available onlineOpens in a new window (PDF) from Archaeology Southwest
    http://www.archaeologysouthwest.org/pdf/TR2005_001.pdf

The Salado Phenomenon

Crown, Patricia L.

  • 1994 Ceramics and Ideology: Salado Polychrome Pottery. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Gladwin, Winifred, and Harold S. Gladwin

  • 1930 Some Southwestern Pottery Types: Series I. Medallion Papers No. 8. Gila Pueblo, Globe.
    Full text version available onlineOpens in a new window from the Arizona Memory Project
    http://azmemory.lib.az.us/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/medallion&CISOPTR=947&REC=9

Lyons, Patrick D.

  • 2003 Ancestral Hopi Migrations. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona No. 68. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Lyons, Patrick D., J. Brett Hill, and Jeffery J. Clark

  • 2011 Irrigation Communities and Communities in Diaspora. In Movement, Connectivity, and Landscape Change in the Ancient Southwest: The 20th Anniversary Southwest Symposium, edited by Margaret C. Nelson and Colleen Strawhacker, pp. 375-401. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Lyons, Patrick D., and Alexander J. Lindsay, Jr.

  • 2006 Perforated Plates and the Salado Phenomenon. Kiva 72(1):5-54.

Kayenta and Tusayan Anasazi Pottery

Beals, Ralph L., George W. Brainerd, and Watson Smith

  • 1945 Archaeological Studies in Northeast Arizona. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology Vol. 44(1). University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles.

Crotty, Helen K.

  • 1983 Honoring the Dead: Anasazi Ceramics from the Rainbow Bridge-Monument Valley Expedition. Monograph Series No. 22. Museum of Cultural History, University of California, Los Angeles.

Hays, Kelley Ann

  • 1991 Ceramics. In Homol'ovi II: Archaeology of An Ancestral Hopi Village, Arizona, edited by E. Charles Adams and Kelley Ann Hays, pp. 23-48. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona No. 55. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Hays-Gilpin, Kelley Ann, Trixi D. Bubemyre, and Louise M. Senior

  • 1996 The Rise and Demise of Winslow Orange Ware. In River of Change: Prehistory of the Middle Little Colorado River Valley, Arizona, edited by E. Charles Adams, pp. 53-74. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 185. Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.

Lyons, Patrick D.

  • 2003 Ancestral Hopi Migrations. Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona No. 68. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.

Lyons, Patrick D., Kelley A. Hays-Gilpin, and Louise M. Senior

  • 2001 Homol'ovi III Ceramics. In Homol'ovi III: A Pueblo Hamlet in the Middle Little Colorado River Valley, edited by E. C. Adams, pp. 137-226. Arizona State Museum Archaeological Series No. 193. Arizona State Museum, University of Arizona, Tucson.

Smith, Watson

  • 1971 Painted Ceramics of the Western Mound at Awatovi. Papers of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology Volume 38. Harvard University, Cambridge.

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