The Shumway Archaeological Project is investigating Ancestral Pueblo community organization during the late Pueblo III to early Pueblo IV periods.

Ancestral Pueblo potters began to paint elaborate iconographic-style designs on red ware pottery following a period of settlement reorganization in east-central Arizona. The new decorative style appears first on White Mountain Red Ware in the Silver Creek area, and follows an earlier tradition of geometric-style pottery (Tularosa and Pinedale style).

Fourmile style pottery was broadly circulated and, for the first time, this red ware tradition was widely imitated (for example, Grasshopper Polychrome). The emulation of Fourmile style pots hints that access to crafting-knowledge was increasingly restricted at a time when most archaeologists believe that these polychrome ceramics evoked integrative or unifying ideologies. The manufacture of pottery in the new style may instead represent a shift in the organization of ceramic production in the northern Southwest, one that involved new social rules for the materialization of ritual information or other specialized bodies of knowledge.

This research will help us understand how social power and prestige are materialized in non-hierarchical societies, through such activities as the production, circulation, and expression of crafting-knowledge.

The transition from geometric decoration (Pinedale style) to iconographic-style White Mountain Red Ware (Fourmile style) occurred in the AD 1320s at a cluster of villages in the Silver Creek drainage. Fourmile Polychrome bowls depict macaws, masked figures, and other subject matter. In contrast, Fourmile style imitations either misarticulate these visuals or resort to the use of earlier geometric-style decorative layouts.

The project addresses three questions regarding the appearance of iconographic-style pottery in the early fourteenth century:

Where was Fourmile style pottery produced?

Were these iconographic-style ceramics produced by specialists?

Did Fourmile style pottery materialize new differences in social power or prestige among groups living at early Pueblo IV period villages in the region?

Pinedale style (left) and Fourmile style (right) White Mountain Red Ware bowls.