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A close-up view of pottery fragments — potsherds — found on the ground

"Puerco Black-on-Red" potsherd (lower right) originally comes from the Rio Puerco area inhabited by the Anasazi.


All around the site, pieces of broken pottery are scattered here and there on the ground. With a little practice, you can become quite good at spotting these small artifacts. We have been learning how pottery provides important clues to archaeologists about who lived at a site and when they were there.

There are rules for naming pottery — each type is named for where it comes from and what it looks like. For instance, Dee, one of the Earthwatch volunteers, found a piece of Puerco Black-on-Red pottery in the unit she was excavating. This pottery is red with black designs and originally comes from the Rio Puerco area north of here that was inhabited by the Anasazi. Archaeologists who study pottery have named many different types and identified where each type comes from and when it was made. Puerco Black-on-Red dates back to around A.D. 1000.

The "Puerco Black-on-Red potsherd raises important questions. Did the Anasazi people who made this pottery move south to live at the Montoya site? Did the Mogollon people who lived at the Montoya site acquire the pottery through trade? Each piece of pottery has a story to tell! It is the archaeologist's job to interpret that story.

Credits: Courtesy of Shayne Russell