San Juan Redwares - Passport in Time

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Tracing the San Juan Redwares

Manti–La Sal National Forest, Utah, 2001
by William A. Lucius and Irene Lopez-Wessell, Institute for Archaeological Ceramic Research

The Concept Was Simple. Recruit two PIT crews of 10 members each for two 10-day sessions and teach them enough about geology, archaeology, and ceramics to allow them to locate the clay and temper sources that the Ancestral Pueblo I (A.D. 700–900) potters used to make their widely exchanged redware pottery. Of course, that meant an almost nonstop barrage of instruction and information that often began at breakfast and continued on through the workday and past dinner into the night. Interestingly, no one complained about having to learn so much, from the bewildering names of pottery types to the depositional sequences of the Morrison Formation.

The Setting Was Idyllic. A traditional archaeological field camp (with camp cook Vaughn Hadenfeldt, porta-potties, and water tank) was laid out among the soaring ponderosas of the Manti–La Sal National Forest at 7,000 feet on the south flank of the Abajo Mountains of southeastern Utah. The excellent food and enough space for tents, RVs, and vehicle parking, as well as an open area large enough for horseshoes, almost made up for the persistent gnats that were the bane of our daylight hours. For those of the crew (almost everybody!) who proved to be sensitive to their bites, we hope that the scars are not permanent.

We Had Interesting Visitors. We could have done without the camp rattlesnake, but the glowworms were a nice surprise. Invited friends included Navajo Tribal Archaeologist Peter Kakos. During the first session, he and several crew members built a replica redware kiln. Each crew used the kiln to fire the redware pots that they made using local clay and temper sources. Jerry Fetterman, David Breternitz, and their crew from Woods Canyon Archaeological Consultants shared dinner and conversation in the second session. For one day each session, we handed the crew over to local archaeologist Winston Hurst for an all-day field trip to visit archaeological sites in the immediate area. Winston and archaeologist Mark Bond also spent an interesting evening with the crew.

The Volunteers Were Extraordinary. Being old hands at public archaeology, we knew to expect exciting folks on the crews. Our expectations were exceeded. Spending all of your waking hours talking about and doing archaeology with an interesting and interested group of volunteers is invigorating! We thank the volunteers for all that they contributed: Fred and Nancy La Turner, Don and Jeanne Ketchum, Frances Mayse, Renna and Andrew Lantz, David Mottola, Dick and Ebby Malgren, Tom Noble, Virginia Trail, Candy Shoemaker, Steve Wiencek, and Anne Whitfield.

The Fieldwork Was Rewarding. Although the crew of the first session had the dubious honor of providing negative evidence as to the location of redware manufacture (we are in the process of rethinking some of the assumptions of the research design), they saw quite a few later Pueblo sites and at the end of the session actually found San Juan Redware sherds on Pueblo I sites! The second session crew members became experts in the recognition, collection, and documentation of San Juan Redwares from several impressive redware sites. Although this second of many anticipated seasons of fieldwork did not accomplish all that was hoped, it has given us a better understanding of the complicated geological and cultural situation and, as such, represents a solid foundation for future investigations.
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