Ceramic Field Identification Manual
Agua Fria National Monument Project

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Black Ax Plain


PERIOD: Late Pueblo III to Early Pueblo IV.

DATES: 1260 to 1350


See Ware Description, except:

Temper: predominantly fines grained quartz sand with small amounts of fine angular fragments, usually black or red.

Core: gray to pinkish to brick-red.

Carbon streak: occasional

Surface finish: smoothed, frequently slightly bumpy; poorly polished, polishing marks are spotty and not conspicuous; exterior surfaces generally gritty; thickly pitted; compacted; surface and core do not constrast except in reduced portions; minute light-colored flakes sometimes seen on surface.

Surface color: bowl surface and jar exteriors red, pinkish shades predominate; interior jar gray, tan, or pink.

Geographic Range: frequent in and near Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona; rare in Homol'ovi/Winslow area.

Illustratons: go to Background page

Discussion: The Museum of Northern Arizona collection has type sherds from both the Winslow/Homol’ovi areas and the Petrified Forest, which includes Black Ax and Stone Ax Pueblos. The latter site is probably the Wallace Tank site, not Hough’s Stone Ax Pueblo. Lyndon Hargrave apparently identified the Black Ax series type sherds in the 1930s. Most of the Winslow area sherds appear to be very similar to Homol’ovi Polychrome and Tuwiuca Black-on-orange (Hays-Gilpin 2005, personal communication). Most of the type sherds are on the redder end of the range of variation but still retaining an orange hue and it is difficult to know why Hargrave called them Black Ax. After examination of the Black Ax series type sherds, Hays-Gilpin identified a thin red slip on a few of the sherds and so they fit the definition of Chavez Pass Black-on-red and Polychrome better than Black Ax. Most of the sherds from the Petrified Forest appear to be softer than Homol’ovi sherds, suggesting either a lower firing temperature or siltier clay source. The white paint on some of Black Ax Polychrome appears to be a bit grayish/bluish, which also suggests a low firing temperature. Most of these sherds also exhibit a thin red slip. A few appear to have organic paint like Showlow Black-on-red. Hays-Gilpin suggests that it would not be surprising to find a technological and even stylistic integrate between Winslow Orange Ware and Puerco Valley Red Ware (Showlow B/r) in the Petrified Forest area. Based on these observations, Hays-Gilpin concludes that Hargrave’s 1930s type assignments were not very consistent (personal communication, Hays-Gilpin: April 19, 2005).

Authored by: Travis Ellison

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

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