Estrella Red-on-gray

Estrella Red-on-gray is the earliest type of Hohokam Buff Ware.  This type was produced primarily in the middle Gila River valley and in Queen Creek, but is found as far south as the Tuscon area.

Archaeological Culture: Hohokam

Date Range: ca. A.D. 500-600.

Construction: By paddle and anvil.

Firing: In a neutral to oxidizing atmosphere; fire clouds common.

Temper: Mica, schist, and quartz.

Surface Finish: Fire clouded or sooted; many are polished, with mica obvious on the surface; non-porous; incised types smoothed on the interiors only. Red slip is present on some bowls. Polishing is over the paint, smearing the lines, on some vessels

Paste Color: Typically gray, brown, or gray-brown; dense.

Forms: Bowls predominate; some jars; few effigies.


  • Paint: Bright red, dull red, or purplish red; sometimes smeared from polishing, and some applied with a finger rather than a brush.
  • Pigments: Iron oxide mineral paint.
  • Design: Wide line work; quartered layouts with nested straight-line hachure fill and chevrons common; rare small element layouts (curvilinear scrolls and commas). Bowls frequently decorated on both the interior and exterior; primary design field usually the interior. Trailing lines are absent.
  • Incising: Coil-based; regular and continuous incising (bowls).

Key Traits: Line width greater than 6.0 mm; presence of exterior red slip or wash; polishing over the painted design; coil-based incising; gray or brown paste with fire-clouded surface.

Comparisons: Beyond provenance, Estrella Red-on-grey is essentially indistinguishable from contemporaneous red-on-brown types. Later Sweetwater Red-on-gray has hachure-sectioning and is rarely slipped.

Compiled from the following sources:
Abbott, David R. (2008) The Process, Location, and History of Hohokam Buff Ware Production: Some Experimental and Analytical Results. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(2):388-397.

Abbott, David R. (2009) Extensive and Long-Term Specialization: Hohokam Ceramic Production in the Phoenix Basin, Arizona.American Antiquity 74(3):531-557.

Deaver, William L. and Cioleck-Torrello, Richard S. (1995) Early Formative Period Chronology for the Tucson Basin. Kiva 60(4):481-529.

Heckman, Robert A., Barbara K. Montgomery, and Stephanie M. Whittlesey. (2000) Prehistoric Painted Pottery of Southeastern Arizona. Technical Series 77. Statistical Research, Inc. Tucson.

Wallace, Henry D. (2004) Update to the Middle Gila Buff Ware Ceramic Sequence. In Hohokam Farming on the Salt River Flood-plain: Refining Models and Analytical Methods, edited by T. Kathleen Henderson, pp. 45-124. Anthropological Papers No. 43. Center for Desert Archaeology, Tucson.

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