Ceramic Field Identification Manual
Agua Fria National Monument Project

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Black Ax Polychrome



DATES: 1260 to 1350

Black Ax Polychrome - DESCRIPTION:

See Ware Description, except:

Temper: somewhat variable; in most specimens medium fine quartz sand grains predominate; lesser amounts medium fine angular fragments, yellowish, red, dark gray; whitish fragments less frequent; in some specimens sand less frequent than angular fragments.

Carbon streak: fairly frequent.

Surface finish: both surfaces of bowls and jar exterior, smoothed; frequently slightly bumpy; poorly polished; polishing marks spotty, not conspicuous; surfaces generally gritty and pitted; sometimes minutely crazed; minute light-colored flakes inconspicuous but frequent; surface and core do not contrast except in reduced portions; surfaces compacted but probably lightly slipped with the same material as basic clay; slip usually powdery.

Surface color: jar exteriors reddish, pinkish shades predominate; interior surface gray, brick-red to pink; both surface bowls red, pinkish shades predominate

Decoration: painted.

Paint: black and white.

Pigments: white, presumably kaolin, generally bluish tint, often crazed, frequently fugitive: black, weak and powdery, generally fugitive.

Designs: on bowl interiors, rarely exteriors, jar exteriors.

Patterns: generally black stripes and solid areas outlined with narrow white lines; occasionally isolated narrow white lines; generally black painted stripe immediately below rim, maybe broken, lower edge of stripe outlined with white; decorative band encircles bowl; occasionally panels hachured with straight, wavy, or staggered black lines.

Illustrations: see Background page

Geographical Range: frequent in and near Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. Rare but regularly occuring in Homol'ovi/Winslow area.

Cultural Affiliation: Western Pueblo

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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