Prehistoric Ceramic Description and Analysis

This course is an introduction to a major artifact class found in Colorado: ceramics.  The course covers the technology of ceramic manufacture, basic description and analysis, and an introduction to some American Indian ceramic wares found in the state.  The course is not a study of ceramic typology; types will be described on a limited basis, and non-Indian wares are not discussed.  The course is of value to those individuals interested in the Late Prehistoric to Protohistoric period occupations (AD 150-1800) of Colorado.

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A ceramic sherd with painted black-on-white decoration and a drilled hole.

Ceramic sherd on an archaeological site.

Photo by Kevin Black.

Class Outline

  1. Introduction to ceramics
  2. Technology of ceramic manufacture
    1. Three basic elements composing ceramics
      1. earthenware, stoneware & porcelain
      2. sources of clay and temper
    2. Ceramic paste and working it
    3. Vessel forming techniques
    4. Finishing techniques
    5. Firing the vessel
  3. Description and analysis
    1. Viewing & describing paste, form & finishes
    2. Defining ceramic types, series & ware
  4. General survey of Colorado ceramic earthenwares
    1. Plains ceramics wares


      1. Plains Woodland & Developmental period
      2. Upper Republican
      3. Apishapa
      4. Sopris (Upper Purgatoire)
    2. Western Colorado ceramics
      1. Ancestral Pueblo (Anasazi)
        -Northern San Juan Gray
        -Northern San Juan White
        -San Juan Red
      2. Fremont
        -Desert/Utility Gray
        -Ivie Creek White
    3. Colorado wares, post-AD 1300
      1. Quemado & Navajo Painted
      2. Dismal River & Sangre de Cristo Micaceous
      3. Intermountain
      4. Uncompahgre Brown
      5. Shoshonean Brown
    4. Trade wares