GILA PLAIN AND GILA RED
OLDER THAN WE THINK?
By Dan King, July 2004, www.rarepottery.info
Plain pottery may have began as early as 2000 B.C. in the area the Hohokam thrived in and generally consisted of small untempered vessels that had unrestricted openings. These vessels had no necks so the openings were also the vessels greatest diameter. Perhaps not until 800 B.C. did potters add a small restricted vessel form, the "seed jar". However about A.D. 150 potters began making larger mostly sand tempered vessels. Vessel forms included necks although the large seed jar apparently was the most common form. Less than 1% were tempered with micaceous schist and/or gneiss (Wallace 2003:148,168&169). These vessels that are tempered fall into the description for Gila Plain, hence the beginning date for Gila Plain is circa A.D. 150.
a number of Hohokam Plain and redware types described by others that
I chose not to describe in this guide. My reasoning for this is the
first rule in the Rules for Naming Pottery Types and Wares described
by Colton. Rule number one states: “The description
of a type, or a series, or a ware must be sufficiently clear so that
it does not conflict with the published description of another type,
series, or ware. The characters separating the type, series or ware from another type, series or ware should be made clear, and if possible a diagnostic character should be indicated.” (Colton, 1953;52).
Gila Red is known as a Classic Period Redware and indeed most
of the Gila Red was produced during this period. However, numerous sherds matching
the description of Gila Red, have (personally) been excavated from Rillito
and Rincon Phase house floors near Tucson. Redware has also been reported in the Snaketown and Rillito Phases at the Hodges Site ( Kelly,1978 :67). There is also a Sweetwater Phase Gila Red sherd featured in this guide.
Although I used to feel the same way about Sacaton Red this type may be justified. Sacaton Red is essentially Gila Red that is only slipped red on the interior of the bowls, exteriors are not slipped thus are usually brown. This treatment is rare in the Classic Period as Classic Period Gila Red is usually slipped red on interior and exterior bowl surfaces and Gila Red Smudged is slipped red on exteriors with smudged black interiors.
Redware from the Tucson and nearby areas seems to be plagued with the same problems. Beginning with "Tortolita Red" (A.D. 475-700), according to Heidke in Wallace;2003,166 the most notable diagnostic attribute is that "Tortilita Red" has no observable mica-schist in the temper and "Rincon Red" usually has a small amount. Rincon Red had previously been described as generally non-micaceous (Greenleaf;1975,59 and Kelly;1978,67). Vessel #1Y in the Rincon Red section of this guide shows a shouldered seed jar with generally no observable mica schist showing on the surface, but if you put it under a bright light and look closely you can see tiny sparkles here and there. The same holds true for the three redware shards #1Y Gila Red of the Estrella Phase (A.D. 650-675). The deeply grooved coil junctures of these three shards are diagnostic and likely date early in the Estrella Phase, which is within the time period given for Tortolita Red. Sherd 1Y in the Gila Red of the Sweetwater Phase section of this guide shows a shard that is both thickly slipped and highly micaceous inside and out and dates from A.D. 675 to 700. This sherd also dates at the end of the range determined for Tortolita Red. "Tortolita Red" is most commonly slipped on interiors as well as exteriors of vessels like "Rincon Red" is. Sherds #1Y in the Gila Red of the Rincon Phase section of this guide are highly micaceous like most Gila Red of the Classic Period. These sherds were found in association with sherd #2Y in the Rincon Polychrome section of this guide which also has a highly micaceous red interior. Vessel 1Y in the Rincon Black-on-Red section of this guide shows a vessel that has an exterior identical to later Classic Period Gila Red, thinly slipped and highly micaceous. It seems that the diagnostic attributes that are supposed to define specific redware "types" from at least the Tucson area, crosscut redware "types" from other time periods or phases. There are also many vessels photographed in this guide in the Gila Red section that if it were not for the polishing striations, would be listed in the Salt Red section because they are not highly micaceous.
Haury describes Gila Red and Gila Plain as having abundant mica (Haury;1945,81 & 102). Danson describes a less micaceous "Tucson Variety" of Gila Plain and states that Gila Plain (Salt and Gila River areas) has more mica. He also states in the remarks section for Gila Plain (Tucson Variety) that "This type represents but one part of an unbroken continuum of plainwares found in the Tucson area." (Hayden;1957,299-231). Both redware and plainware from the Tucson Basin and adjacent areas were made with varying amounts of micaceous temper throughout most of its history.
Please don't take me wrong, I have the utmost respect and commend the work done by all of the researchers mentioned. However, I believe the plainware as well as the Redware produced by the Hohokam basically changed very little over time, and that temper is not always the best diagnostic attribute when naming a type that was produced with a variety of tempers over a large regional area. Researchers can certainly sort plain and redwares by the temper or paste recipes much more than they currently have been. They can group plainwares by percentages such as one group may have 10% mica in the temper, another may have 20%, etcetera. They could group the percentages of quartz, feldspar, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Basically varying amounts and different temper choices are varieties of a common type. A vanilla cake sweetened with splenda instead of sugar is still a vanilla cake. See article titled "General Pottery Descriptions" in this guide.
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