OBJECT OF THE MONTH - January, 2007

Black-on-White Mug

Black-on-white mug with rattle bottom, AD 900-1300 (UCM21638c).

The black-on-white mug pictured above was collected by Gervis W. Hoofnagle while he was employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the early 1920s to 1948. While working in southwestern Colorado, Hoofnagle purchased this mug from "an old-timer in Mancos, CO." The old-timer told Hoofnagle he had collected the mug from a ruin around Mesa Verde.

Black-on-white ceramics were common in the northern San Juan Plateau from the Basketmaker III period until the Pueblo III period (500 AD to 1300 AD). Around 1250 AD the Ancestral Puebloan inhabitants of the region started to leave the area and moved to the south where the contemporary Pueblo people live today.
Black-on-white mugs usually date to the Pueblo II to Pueblo III time periods (900 AD to 1300 AD). This Black-on-white mug has a rattle bottom with ceramic beads enclosed in a "false" or "hollow" bottom. In the handle there is a keyhole, or T-shaped, cut out.
This T-shaped design also appears in architecture throughout the Mesa Verde and northern San Juan region. The design is thought to have first appeared when the ruins at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico reached their florescence in the Pueblo II period (900-1100 AD). Archaeologists have speculated on the use of mugs, but very little is known about this unusual vessel type which only appears for a short period of time in the archaeological record. Hopefully future research will be able to discover more about the origin and use of mugs.
To learn more:
  • Anasazi Pottery, Robert H. Lister and Florence C. Lister, 1978, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.
  • From This Earth: The Ancient Art of Pueblo Pottery, Stewart Peckham, 1990, Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.
  • Archaeology of the Southwest, 2nd edition, Linda Cordell, 1997, Academic Press, Inc., New York.