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Research Wednesday: Design variation on Mancos Black-on-white pottery

Dogoszhi-style Mancos Black-on-white bowl, no. 120 (Wallace Ruin)

Dogoszhi-style Mancos Black-on-white bowl from Wallace Ruin (5MT6970), Vessel 120. Photo courtesy of Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.


Current Research

The Mancos Black-on-white pottery type is an enduring enigma in the central Mesa Verde region. It was produced from roughly A.D. 920–1180 and includes a wide range in variation in design and technology. During its production period, nearly identical designs were used across the broader Ancestral Pueblo world, including in the Cibola, Chuska, and Kayenta regions. In these latter regions, scholars have proposed finer chronological groupings based on changes in design styles, rim decorations, and paint type (i.e., mineral vs. carbon paint). In contrast, researchers in the central Mesa Verde Region have not defined finer temporal groupings.

Recent collaborative research by Maxwell Curator Kari Schleher and colleagues from the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center (Michelle Turner, Ben Bellorado, Jamie Merewether, Daniel Hampson, Kate Hughes, and Susan Montgomery) and UNM (Mariana Lujan Sanders and Genevieve Woodhead ) has explored this enigma. Through a detailed attribute analysis they documented and analyzed variability in Mancos Black-on-white ceramics recently recovered from three Lakeview community Chaco-period great houses being investigated by the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center. Their analysis revealed complicated relations between design styles, material selection and chronology – with styles, materials and rim treatments argued to be earlier in other regions showing up in later contexts in Lakeview sites, and vice versa.

They conclude their intriguing study by noting:

“Our results hint at the possibility that design styles within Mancos B/w are not just temporally significant, but may also reflect production group differences. We will continue to evaluate these design styles on Mancos Black-on-white to untangle this enigma.”

This research was supported by a grant through the Colorado State Historical fund, awarded to the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center.


Kari L. Schleher, Michelle I. Turner, Benjamin Bellorado, Mariana Lujan Sanders, Genevieve Woodhead, Daniel Leja, Jamie Merewether, Daniel Hampson, Kate Hughes, and Susan Montgomery. 2021 Lumping and Splitting: Design Variation on Mancos Black-on-white Pottery in the Central Mesa Verde Region. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.