Style 3 (Classic)

Classic Mimbres (Style 3) bowl from the Musuem of Northern Arizona collections. Click the image to open the Classic Mimbres gallery.

Classic Mimbres (Style 3) pottery is known for its fine-line geometeric and figurative designs, and is perhaps one of the most recognizable types of pottery in the Southwest.  Like the other types of Mimbres Ware, Classic Mimbres pottery is concentrated in southern New Mexico north to the Upper Gila, east to around El Paso, Texas, and south into Chihuahua, Mexico, with vessels occasionally found in west-central Arizona, as well.

Archaeological Culture: Mimbres

Date Range: A.D. 1000-1150.

Construction: Coiling and scraping.

Firing: In a reducing atmosphere; firing atmosphere often variable; fire clouds common.

Core Color: Brown, red, buff, light gray, or dark gray; often variable in cross-section; always buff, brown, or red when refired.

Temper: Quartz sand or crushed quartz, volcanic rock, and/or sherds; often fine and rounded.

Surface Finish: Bowl exteriors smoothed, unslipped; interiors smoothed, heavily white-slipped (chalky and often irregular), polished, painted.

Surface Color
White when slipped; when not slipped, brown, grayish-brown, red, gray, or dark gray.

Forms: Bowls (predominate), jars, ollas, seed jars, effigies.


    • Paint: Red, black, or in-between; red when fired in an oxidizing atmosphere; black, gray, or gray-brown when fired in a reducing atmosphere ; frequently mottled or piebald from inconsistent firing atmospheres.
    • Pigment: Hematite.
    • Design: Primarily interiors, occasionally exteriors; rim band, or bands (commonly 3) above the design; designs often framed by multiple fine lines; design fields quadrant or mirrored; positive and negative forms common; figurative designs relatively common and realistic; all designs finely executed and detailed; hatchure fine and regularly spaced.

Comparisons: Cibola Paste/Mimbres Design: whiteware vessels painted with Mimbres designs, generally found in the Reserve area, Arizona and the Upper Gila Valley, New Mexico; typically unslipped. Style II lacks the fine execution of Style III, and also does not have rim band(s) separate from the design. The slip on Chupadero Black-on-white cannot be scratched with a fingernail.

Other Names; Classic Mimbres Black-on-white, Classic Black-on-white, Mimbres Black-on-white.

Compiled from the following sources:
Barkwell Love, Lori. (2014) From the Inside: Paste Variation in Mogollon-Mimbres Ceramics from Woodrow Ruin in the Upper Gila, New Mexico. Presented at the 79th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Austin.

Scott, Catherine J. (1983) The Evolution of Mimbres Pottery. In Mimbres Pottery: Ancient Art of the Southwest, edited by S.A. Leblanc, pp. 39-68. Hudson Hills Press, Inc. New York.

Compiled by:
Meghann M. Vance, Northern Arizona University Anthropology Laboratories.