This magnificent jar was excavated by ByronCummings (1860-1954) in the summer of 1916, on just the second archaeological expedition he led at the University of Arizona. Dean Cummings, as he was invariably titled, had been hired a year earlier to direct the Arizona State Museum, located on the UA campus since its establishment in 1893, and to create a new Department of Archaeology for the university.
In that summer of 1916, Dean Cummings led a small field party from the university to northeastern Arizona. Near Kayenta, on the east side of Skeleton Mesa along Parrish Creek (Cummings called it Kaykody Wash), Cummings and his party stopped briefly at a site he referred to as Sheep Corral Cave, probably because of its use by the local Navajo people to shelter their livestock. There, Cummings excavated this jar, a type that archaeologists now classify as Sosi Black-on-white.
Sosi Black-on-white was formally named by Dr. Harold Sellers Colton, founder and first director of the Museum of Northern Arizona, and his colleague, Lyndon Lane Hargrave, in theirHandbook of Northern Arizona Pottery Wares (1937: 211-213). The name Sosi derives from Tsegi-ot-sosi (“Slim Canyon in the Rocks”), the Navajo name for a canyon near Kayenta in northeastern Arizona. Sosi Black-on-white is a Pueblo II period Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo) pottery type. It is characterized by bold, solid elements such as triangles, scrolls, and parallel lines and is painted with a vegetal-based pigment.
Colton and Hargrave initially suggested ca. 1120–1150 CE as the approximate dates of the type's manufacture. David Breternitz (1966: 96) later suggested dates of ca. 1075–1200 CE, based on associations with tree ring-dated ruins, but acknowledged that the dates probably did not accurately reflect the real duration of manufacture. More recently, Kelley Hays-Gilpin and Eric van Hartesveldt (1998: 115) have suggested slightly more limited dates ofca. 1070–1180 CE. Unfortunately, this is the only specimen of decorated pottery from Sheep Corral Cave but we can at least say that the cave was in use sometime in the late 11th to late 12th century.