Current Research

Some of the research projects currently underway at TARL include:

Click on any of the photographs in this section for an enlarged view.

Central Texas Ceramics Project

Counties in which sherds and clay samples were found.More than 400 sherds and clay samples were sent to the University of Missouri Research Reactor facility for Instrumental Neutron Activation Analysis (INAA) for the Central Texas Ceramics Project. Drawn from more than 40 counties across the region, the sample may constitute the largest study group of hunter-gatherer ceramics ever assembled for chemical constituent analysis. Ultimately, through these and other analyses, we hope to learn more about the mobility and pottery technology of indigenous groups during the Late Prehistoric period. In the map (above and right), locations of sites from which sherds were chosen are in red; black dots indicate ceramic-bearing sites not sampled.

Leon Plain bowlThe majority of sherds drawn for the sample are bone-tempered plain ware, typically known as Leon Plain. Many were selected from collections excavated from large reservoir projects including O.H. Ivie and Robert Lee as well as from TARL's E. B. Sayles collection in the western and northwestern sections of the study area. Whenever possible, sherds that had previously been thin sectioned for other projects were chosen to provide corollary information for the present study. A sample from this large Leon Plain bowl (shown inverted) was one of several from the Rush site in Tom Green County submitted for analysis. Although not a refit sherd, it was identified with the same vessel group by Mariah archeologists and was thin-sectioned for petrographic analysis during their project.

A number of Caddoan and other decorated sherds were submitted, some from reservoir project sherds from Kimble Countysites along the easternmost margin of the study area and others from sites well within the central Texas core. For example, the sherds shown in the photo to the right include a brushed sherd from 41UV2, Kincaid Rockshelter, an incised sherd from Kimble County (middle), and, at right, a sherd with traces of red pigment, also from Kimble County. bowlSometimes called Fugitive Red Slip, the red pigment coating is thought to contain the iron mineral, hematite, and doesn't preserve well. It probably occurred more commonly on so-called Leon Plain ceramics than is realized. This large jar from Runnels County, from which a filing from the base was taken as a sample for INAA analysis, also contains traces of red pigment.

Raw and fired clay samples from 11 counties also were submitted, including these from Burnet and Raw and fired clay samplesLlano counties. Although small in number, the group of clays will provide a baseline indicator of chemical constituents from rivers draining the major watersheds in the study area, specifically, the Pedernales, Llano, Colorado, Sabinal, and Medina. In the months ahead, we hope to augment these clays with additional samples, particularly from the upper reaches of the Llano, Concho, and Colorado above the Central Mineral Region.

The Texas sample sitesprocess of amassing the sample has been in itself a remarkable cooperative effort among Texas academic institutions, government agencies, private firms, and interested individuals. The final sample represents more than 150 collections from TARL, UTSA-CAR, Texas Tech University, Texas A&M, Texas Department of Transportation, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Fort Worth District, United States Department of the Interior-Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service-Amistad Recreation Area, Prewitt and Associates, and many private donors. Many thanks again to all of you who so generously assisted us in this effort.

Digital image files of the original sherdsA Special Ceramics Study collection constituting parent sherds from each of the samples used in this project has been archived at TARL for researchers. Digital image files of the original sherds (such as those shown on left) will be maintained at TARL. In the future, we hope researchers will contribute thin sections and data from their own studies in order that these may be added to a comprehensive ceramics database kept at TARL.

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Mimbres Valley Pottery Compositional Analysis

TARL and the Department of Anthropology have conducted excavations at the Old Town site in the Mimbres valley in Luna County, New Mexico, since 1990 under the direction of Darrell Creel. These excavations and related analyses have been done chiefly through summer field schools and have been sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Las Cruces District. One key research topic has been ceramic production and exchange during the long period of occupation at Old Town (at least as early as AD 600 and as late as the early AD 1300s). Several hundred sherds have been subjected to neutron activation analysis at the University of Missouri Research Reactor (MURR) at the reduced fee subsidized by NSF. Recently, we analyzed 108 sherds of various types used during the Three Circle phase (AD 750-1000); and the results were presented in a 2000 Masters thesis by Shari Chandler at New Mexico State University entitled "Sourcing Three Circle Phase Ceramics from Old Town (LA 1113), Luna County, New Mexico."

Above, sherds from Old Town. Click on image for enlarged view.

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chupadero sherdTracing the Production Areas of Chupadero Black-on-White

Chupadero Black-on-white is a highly distinctive and well-made pottery style found widely in southern New Mexico, western Texas, and adjacent parts of Chihuahua and Arizona. With a grant from the Texas Historical Foundation, TARL (Principal Investigator, Darrell Creel) has nearly completed a compositional analysis of more than 200 samples of Chupadero Black-on-white. chupadero sherd The style has long been believed to come primarily from large pueblo communities built after AD 1300 in the Chupadera Mesa area of central New Mexico. Instrumental neutron activation analysis reveals that Chupadero Black-on-white (ca. AD 1150-1300) was produced in the Sierra Blanca-Capitan mountain area of New Mexico and was widely moved throughout southern New Mexico and adjacent Texas. Contemporaneous production in the Chupadera Mesa area has not yet been investigated. Later Chupadero pottery was made in both areas, with that made in the Sierra Blanca-Capitan mountain area moved primarily to the east, south, and west, and that made in the Chupadera Mesa area pueblos carried in substantial quantities east to the Southern Plains.

map of chupadero production area Most of the samples used in this analysis are from TARL collections, but other samples were provided by the Museum of Texas Tech University (courtesy of Eileen Johnson and Susan Baxevanis), Don Hamilton, Jane Holden Kelley, Joe Stewart, Michelle Hegmon, Margaret Nelson, and Regge Wiseman. Additional samples will be analyzed in an effort to identify other possible manufacturing areas and to clarify distribution patterns. This series of samples was analyzed at the University of Missouri Research Reactor under a grant from the National Science Foundation (DBS-9102016), courtesy of Hector Neff and Michael Glascock; Hector Neff has done the statistical analysis of the compositional data. Additional samples to be included in this project were analyzed at the Center for Chemical Characterization and Analysis, Texas A&M University, and have been made available by Dennis James and Harry Shafer. These and other data from CRM projects are being used by Tiffany Clark for her dissertation research at Arizona State University.

Related Publications and Conference Papers

The Production and Long Distance Exchange of Chupadero Black-on-white Pottery in the Post-A.D. 1130 Mimbres Region.

By Tiffany Clark, Darrell Creel, and Hector Neff
Paper presented at the 2002 Mogollon Conference, Las Cruces, New Mexico

Abstract: Prehistoric populations of southwest New Mexico experienced significant changes in settlement systems and material culture beginning in the mid-twelfth century AD. Accompanying these changes was an expansion of interregional interaction as indicated by the appearance of a number of non-local pottery types, including Chupadero Black-on-white. This paper explores the nature of these long-distance ties through an INAA analysis of Chupadero pottery from post-AD 1130 sites in the Mimbres Valley and eastern Mimbres areas. Results of this analysis suggest that although long-term social ties existed with populations in central New Mexico, the intensity and exclusivity of such exchange relations varied across time and space.

Production and Long-Diatance Movement of Chupadero Black-on-white Pottery in New Mexico and Texas. by Darrell Creel, Tiffany Clark, and Hector Neff, 2002, Chapter 6 in Geochemical Evidence for Long Distance Exchange, edited by Michael Glascock. Bergen and Garvey, Westport, Connecticut.

Abstract: Prehistoric populations of southwest New Mexico experienced significant changes in settlement systems and material culture beginning in the mid-twelfth century AD. Accompanying these changes was an expansion of interregional interaction as indicated by the appearance of a number of non-local pottery types, including Chupadero Black-on-white. This paper explores the nature of these long-distance ties through an INAA analysis of Chupadero pottery from post-AD 1130 sites in the Mimbres Valley and eastern Mimbres areas. Results of this analysis suggest that although long-term social ties existed with populations in central New Mexico, the intensity and exclusivity of such exchange relations varied across time and space.