Tusayan White Ware


PERIOD: Basketmaker III to Pueblo IV

DATES: about A.D. 600 - 1325


Construction: usually coiled; some possibly ring-built.

Thinning: scraped on both sides; occasionally bowls have a corrugated exterior.

Finishing: polished on both surfaces of bowls, polished on jar exteriors. Jar bases frequently left unpolished. Sometimes slipped, then polished. Slip is often the same color as the paste, and difficult to identify.

Firing: reducing to neutral atmosphere, relatively well-controlled. Probably pit-fired with little free oxygen.

Temper: Usually fine quartz sand. Size ranges from medium in early types to very fine in late types. Grains are usually subangular and well-sorted. Often contains fine colored angular fragments of shale or siltstone. May also contain crushed sherd, especially in late types. Some late types often contain fine, clear, volcanic ash.

Core Color: often has a gray carbon streak; ranges from white (no carbon streak) to black (strong carbon streak).

Clay: Iron-poor. Almost always refires buff (yellow) in an oxidizing atmosphere. Probably contains kaolinite. Probably from Wepo and Toreva formations of the Cretacious Period Mesa Verde Group, on and around the edges of Black Mesa, Arizona.

Core Texture: medium to fine.

Fracture: shattering.

Surface Appearance: white to light gray, dull to shiny, slipped or unslipped. May have polishing streaks. Jar interiors are evenly scraped with fine, shallow scraping marks. Early types often have deeper, more prominant scraping marks, grooves, gouges, and pits, especially on bowl exteriors.

Surface Color: white, sometimes light gray. May misfire (oxidize) to yellow.

Firing Clouds: rare but regular, especially on large vessels.

Thickness: usually about 4 mm thick.

Weathering and Use Wear Pattern: The usually hard and fine paste holds up well to weathering. Spalling is rare. Basaltic soils of the Flagstaff area seem to cause surface erosion, however.

Vessel Forms: bowls, jars, pitchers, ladles, scoops, effigies, colanders, figurines, beads.

Rims: bowl rims usually have rounded lips on straight walls, occasionally beveled or flat. Jar rims usually have rounded lips. See type descriptions, as shapes vary by time.

Decoration and Paint Type: Black carbon paint on white surfaces, on bowl interiors and jar exteriors. Exterior decoration of bowls is very rare. Paint ranges from light gray to rich, deep black, and may appear light orange when misfired.

RANGE: Greatest concentration on and around Black Mesa in northern Arizona; frequent south of Grand Canyon, around Flagstaff, in the Chinle Valley, and in the Four Corners region. Appears as a trade ware as far west as California and Nevada; south into the Phoenix Basin; east to the Chuska Slope; and north into southern Utah (but infrequent north of the San Juan River). The Virgin Series of Tusayan White Ware dominates the Arizona Strip. Colton defined a Polacca Series for the later 1200s and early 1300s on the Hopi Mesas.

COMPARISON: Cibola White Ware has mineral paint, and later types have sherd temper. Mesa Verde Black-on-white has sherd or crushed rock temper or a combination of both. Little Colorado White Ware has darker paste (iron-rich clay); sherd temper and a prominent white slip. Shinarump White Ware has dark, vitrified core.

CULTURAL ASSOCIATION: Kayenta Anasazi, Ancestral Pueblo, Hisatsinom.

REMARKS: Most Kayenta Series Tusayan White Ware was probably made on and around Black Mesa. Other production sources are likely south of the Grand Canyon and in the Chinle Valley, but thus far cannot be distinguished visually. The Virgin Series Tusayan White Ware was probably made on the Arizona Strip, in southern Utah, and perhaps in the Las Vegas NV area.

TYPES: Kayenta Series (other series are not covered here):

Lino Black-on-gray

Kana-a Black-on-white

Wepo Black-on-white

Black Mesa Black-on-white

Sosi Black-on-white

Dogoszhi Black-on-white

Flagstaff Black-on-white

Tusayan Black-on-white

Kayenta Black-on-white (also known as Tusayan B/w, Kayenta Variety)

Bidahochi Black-on-white


© Copyright 2001 Northern Arizona University.