San Juan region, Red ware pottery, archaeology


Portable x-ray fluorescence (PXRF) analysis allows rapid, non-destructive characterization of the elements present in paints on archaeological ceramics. By measuring painted and unpainted portions of San Juan Red Ware sherds s from southeastern Utah, we document variation in the elements in the paint. Iron is ubiquitous in San Juan Red Ware paints, while manganese, lead, and copper, were also sometimes present. Manganese is consistently present in black paints on later San Juan Red Wares, and is a useful tool in identifying sherds. Abajo Red-on-orange sherds discolored by exposure to fire can appear to be Bluff black-on-red, but lack manganese. Lead appears rarely in San Juan Red Ware paints, and may reflect specific pigment sources. Copper only occurs on the black paints on Abajo Polychrome sherds. Copper-rich paints may have been turquoise pre-firing. Turquoise is an important color in Pueblo cosmology, and so if copper-rich paints are turquoise before firing, the use of copper rich pigments may be significant. Variation in paint, particularly crossed with neutron activation data for a portion of the sherds included in our sample, leads to a firmer understanding of decisions inherent in the ceramic creation process.

Original Publication Citation

Aspen Greaves and James R. Allison 2020 Variations in Paint on San Juan Red Ware. Poster presented at the 17th Southwest Symposium Archaeological Conference, Tempe, Arizona.

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Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor