Crow Canyon

Pottery, Context, and Structure Use at the Dillard Site

By Kari Schleher, Laboratory Manager

Archaeologists use—among many other things—the kinds of pottery vessels found in various locations to infer how different types of structures, or different areas of a site, were used. Jars were typically used to store and cook food; bowls are believed to have been used primarily to serve food. So the relative proportions of these vessel forms in different parts of a site are important clues to the activities that took place in those locations.

It’s an approach that’s been used by archaeologists for decades in the Mesa Verde region. For example, high bowl-to-jar ratios in some kivas and protokivas during the Pueblo I through Pueblo III periods (A.D. 750–1300) have led several researchers to postulate that feasting took place in these structures (Blinman 1989; Potter 2000; Potter and Ortman 2004). By “feasting,” archaeologists mean gatherings of people that extended beyond one family or household and therefore had broad social implications. Such events would have brought members of a community together to share food, perhaps as part of group rituals or ceremonies. Food prepared in jars in household residences may have been brought in bowls, potluck-style, to the gathering place, eventually resulting in the accumulation of higher percentages of bowls (and bowl sherds) in such places.

Lab manager Kari Schleher examines pottery sherdsSo, does this same pattern hold up at earlier, Basketmaker III (A.D. 500–750) sites, like the Dillard site? Do the relative quantities of bowl and jar sherds provide clues to where certain activities took place and how different parts of the site may have been used? In 2012, our lab staff, volunteers, and interns began analyzing pottery from the site to help answer these questions. Our preliminary analysis focused on approximately 600 sherds from the collapsed roofing of the great kiva and from deposits associated with two nearby household areas, Block 200 (south of the great kiva) and Block 300 (just north of the great kiva). The household contexts include pit structure floor, postabandonment fill, and midden (trash) deposits.


Blinman, Eric R.
1989 Potluck in the Protokiva: Ceramics and Ceremonialism in Pueblo I Villages. In The Architecture of Social Integration in Prehistoric Pueblos, edited by W. D. Lipe and M. Hegmon, pp. 113–124. Occasional Papers, no. 1. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, Cortez, Colorado.

Potter, James M.
2000 Pots, Parties, and Politics: Communal Feasting in the American Southwest. American Antiquity 65(3):471-492.

Potter, James M. and Scott G. Ortman
2004 Community and Cuisine in the Prehispanic American Southwest. In Identity, Feasting, and the Archaeology of the Greater Southwest, edited by B. J. Mills, pp. 173–191. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

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