Red Mesa Black-on-white

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

Red Mesa Black-on-white is a type of Cibola White Ware with a fair amount of design variability.  The rims of these vessels, however, are invariably painted black.

Archaeological Culture: Ancestral Puebloan

Date Range: A.D. 900-1050.

Construction: By coiling.

Firing: In a neutral to reducing atmosphere.

Core Color: White.

Carbon Streak: Occasional.

Temper: Combination of sherd and sand; occasionally sherd only.

Surface Finish: Thinly slipped and unevenly polished; often having a chalky feel.

Surface Color: Buff 1 to Buff 2.

Forms: Bowls and jars, pitchers, ladles, effigies.

Vessel Thickness: 4.8 to 7.2 mm; average 5.4 mm (bowls); 4 to 7.2 mm; average 5.4 mm (jars).


  • Paint: Black to dark brown mineral paint.
  • Pigments: Iron-based.
  • Design: Lines are of medium width (2-4 mm). Motifs include chevrons; solid triangles with pendant dots; scrolls, checkerboard; squiggle (wavy line) hatching, widely spaced, and vertical to oblique (diagonal); parallel hatch panel dividers; scallop-edged triangles; and nests of fine-line squares. The designs are often banded and the overall effect is often very busy. Rims are painted black.

Comparisons: Design range overlaps with Wepo and Black Mesa Black-on-white in the Kayenta area (organic paint, light paste, sand temper) and Holbrook A Black-on-white in the Little Colorado area (organic paint, dark paste, sherd temper). Red Mesa designs tend to have thinner lines and more open space than those of Puerco Black-on-white.

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.

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