La Plata Black-on-white

La Plata Black-on-white jar from the Museum of Northern Arizona collections. Click the image to open the La Plata Black-on-white gallery.

La Plata Black-on-white is an early type of Cibola White Ware that, like the bowl above, often had a fugitive red wash applied to the exterior unpainted surfaces.

Archaeological Culture: Ancestral Puebloan, Basketmaker

Date Range: A.D. 550-750.

Construction: By coiling and scraping.

Firing: In a reducing or neutral atmosphere.

Core Color: Gray to white.

Temper: Coarse quartz sand, possibly crushed sandstone.

Surface Finish: Smoothed, not polished, occasionally molded in baskets with basket impression remaining on the exterior, exterior usually scraped with conspicuous scraping marks; sometimes has fugitive red paint.

Surface Color: Buff 1.

Forms: Bowls, seed jars (rare).


  • Paint: Black to reddish brown mineral paint.
  • Pigments: Iron-based.
  • Design: Small repeated rectilinear elements such as ticked and fringed lines, and parallel thin lines filled with dots and basket or textile like elements, such as rows of Z’s and H’s. The design usually is simple and proceeds from the rim to the center of the bowl. Symmetry is usually rotational. Sullivan (1984) describes this style as “executed in narrow width lines that are frequently elaborated. The unbanded design layout contains no solid elements.” Small, flagged solid triangles may be present as an edging to an otherwise open element, such as parallel thin lines. A solid line is usually painted directly on the rim.

Comparisons: White Mound Black-on-white has larger and more frequent solid elements, bolder treatment, and more complex designs with a banded, rim-oriented layout. Lino Black-on-gray has organic paint. Twin Trees Black-on-white has a polished surface and igneous rock temper. Chapin Black-on-white has scraped surfaces and igneous rock temper.

Compiled from the following sources:
Hays-Gilpin, Kelly and Eric van Hartseveldt. (1998) Prehistoric Ceramics of the Puerco Valley: The 1995 Chambers-Sanders Trust Land Ceramic Conference. Museum of Northern Arizona Ceramic Series, No.7. Flagstaff, Arizona.

Sullivan, Alan P. (1984) Design Styles and Cibola Whiteware: Examples From the Grasshopper Area, East-Central Arizona. In Regional Analysis of Prehistoric Ceramic Variations : Contemporary Studies of the Cibola Whitewares, edited by Alan P. Sullivan and J.L. Hantman. ASU Anthropological Research Papers 31. Arizona State University, Tempe.

Compiled by:
April Peters, Northern Arizona University Anthropology Laboratories.