Ceramic Field Identification Manual
Agua Fria National Monument Project

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Cliff Polychrome



DATES: Late A.D. 1300’s to middle A.D. 1400’s (Lyons 2004:25).


GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Cliff Polychrome has been encountered in a region that stretches north to south from Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona to Casas Grandes, in Chihuahua, Mexico, and east to west from the Phoenix Basin, in Arizona, to Alamogordo, New Mexico (Lyons 2004:25).

Cliff Polychrome - DESCRIPTION

See Ware Description, except

Construction: Variable; most vessels are formed by coiling and finished by scraping, while some appear to have been made using the paddle-and-anvil technique (Crown 1994:41, Lyons 2004:25).

Thickness: Variable (Lyons 2004:25)

Vessel Forms: Cliff Polychrome vessels occur only as bowls, with shapes that include recurved, semi-flaring incurved, and semi-flaring hemispherical (Lyons 2004:25).

Rims: No data available (Lyons 2004:25).

Paint Type: Mineral or organic paint is used, with organic paint more frequent (Crown 1994:44).

Decoration: Bowls are typified by two design fields separated by a banding line (Lyons 2004:25).

Surface Appearance: Exterior Surface Treatment: Vessels are both slipped and polished, and occasionally painted (Lyons 2004:25). Interior Surface Treatment: Slipped, polished, and painted (Lyons 2004:25).

Surface Color: Exterior Surface Color: Red slip. Crown (1994:42) notes standardization of color use, with over 50% of the vessels in her sample colored raspberry red (10R 4/6) when analyzed with a Munsell Soil Color Chart. Occasional use of white or black slip in addition to the red slip, as well as occasional use of painted decoration (Lyons 2004:25). Click here for images of unusual exterior surface color and decoration. Interior Surface Color: White slip with black painted designs (Lyons 2004:25).

COMPARISON: Cliff Polychrome is distinguished from Gila Polychrome by the presence of painted decoration above the banding line (Lyons 2004:25). Cliff Polychrome is distinguished from Tonto Polychrome and Los Muertos Polychrome in that Tonto and Los Muertos Polychromes incorporate red painted decoration on the interiors, while Cliff Polychrome does not (Lyons 2004). Furthermore, Tonto Polychrome primarily occurs on jars, while Cliff Polychrome occurs exclusively on bowls (Lyons 2004).

REMARKS: Lyons (2004) notes that his description of Cliff Polychrome refers only to bowl forms, but that Harlow’s (1968) initial description of Cliff Polychrome includes jar as well as bowl forms.


Authored by: Leigh Anne Ellison

Authored by: 2005 NAU Ceramic Analysis class and Prof. Kelley Hays-Gilpin
Northern Arizona University - Anthropology Department

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