Mimbres Ware

Mimbres bowls from the Museum of Northern Arizona collections. Click the image to open the Mimbres Black-on-white gallery.

Mimbres bowls from the Museum of Northern Arizona collections. Click the image to open the Mimbres Black-on-white gallery.

Mimbres pottery is one of the best known types in the Southwest.  Although often referred to as a whiteware, Mimbres Ware is actually a brownware slipped with white and painted with designs that range from red to black.  Concentrated in southern New Mexico north to the Upper Gila, east to around El Paso, Texas, and south into Chihuahua, Mexico, this ware is also occasionally found as far west as west-central Arizona.

Types include: Style 1 (Boldface), Style 2 (Transitional), and Style 3 (Classic).

Archaeological Culture: Mimbres

Date Range: A.D. 750-1150.

Construction: Coiling and scraping.

Firing: In an oxidizing atmosphere (early) and later, 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 sherd; often fine and rounded.

Surface Finish: Bowl exteriors often unslipped or slipped red; exteriors smoothed (slightly bumpy); interiors smoothed, white-slipped (chalky), polished; jar exteriors slipped and polished.

Surface Color: White-slipped, occasionally red (bowl exteriors); when not slipped, brown, grayish-brown.

Forms: Bowls (predominate), jars, ollas, seed jars, pitchers, canteens, scoops, 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: Geometric and figurative; curvilinear and rectilinear motifs, wavy or straight line hatchure common; rim lines present depending on type; later designs intricate and detailed; life forms realistic; jars typically decorated with geometric designs, with life forms reserved for bowls; bowls typically decorated on the interior only, but occasionally with secondary designs on the exterior surfaces.

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. The slip on Chupadero Black-on-white cannot be scratched with a fingernail.

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.