Anthropological Papers at the University of Arizona

Paper #72
Ancestral Zuni Glaze-Decorated Pottery: Viewing Pueblo IV Regional Organization through Ceramic Production and Exchange

Author: Deborah L. Huntley
Publisher: Anthropological Papers of the University of Arizona 72, 2008, $17.95
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The Pueblo IV period (A.D. 1275-1600) witnessed dramatic changes in regional settlement patterns and social configurations across the ancestral Pueblo Southwest. Some areas were abandoned during this interval, but populations elsewhere consolidated into apartmentlike nucleated pueblos. Early in the Pueblo IV period, ancestral Pueblo groups began making distinctive polychrome pottery vessels, often decorated with glaze paints, that have been linked with the introduction of new ideologies and religious practices to the area. Polychrome bowls likely were used not only for everyday household food service, but also as containers for ritual offerings and for serving food at community-wide feasts.

This research explores scales of interaction among residents of nucleated pueblo clusters in the Zuni region of west-central New Mexico during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries A.D. by analyzing the production and exchange of polychrome and utility ware vessels, glaze paint recipes, use of color on polychrome pottery, and glaze paint ore sources. The ceramic sample comes from collections made previously at nine nucleated pueblos occupied during all or part of the A.D. 1275- 1400 interval. Multiple lines of evidence, including INAA, electron microprobe, and lead isotope analyses, indicate that potters and those with access to their products used pottery to negotiate relationships at multiple scales: within pueblo clusters (local interaction spheres), among pueblo clusters (regional alliances), and with other regions.

Building on previous research, this study demonstrates that pueblos in different parts of the Zuni region consistently used locally available clay resources to make polychrome and utility ware vessels. Utility ware was sometimes exchanged at the level of the individual pueblo or pueblo cluster. Decorated bowls, however, were more frequently exchanged throughout the region, and the direction of this exchange was markedly from west to east. Pueblos in the El Morro Valley in the eastern Zuni region were the recipients of polychrome bowls from other parts of the Zuni region, a pattern interpreted as the result of interpueblo alliance formation within the context of integrative rituals hosted at El Morro Valley pueblos. There is also evidence for a relatively rapid, region-wide shift from a high copper/low lead glaze recipe to a high lead/low copper recipe that points to regular communication among potters. Finally, patterns of long-distance procurement of certain ores used for glaze paints highlight social interactions that transcended regional boundaries and traditionally defined culture areas.

This research provides empirical support for the flexibility and mutability of social group boundaries in the ancestral Pueblo Southwest. Despite this phenomenon and the complicated patterns it produces in the archaeological record, the study demonstrates that it is possible to use historical collections to examine issues of production organization, scales of interaction, and regional social dynamics. This research also alerts archaeologists who study power and leadership in ancestral Pueblo societies to the possibility that strategies like manipulation of interpueblo alliances or control over long-distance resources may have been used to concentrate social power.

*DEBORAH L. HUNTLEY is a Preservation Archaeologist at the Center for Desert Archaeology in Tucson, Arizona.

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