Andy Ward
traditional SW pottery

Recreating An Authentic Salado Pottery Firing Environment

In my previous post I discussed evidence from archaeology and from modern Pueblo pottery, indicating the type of firing environment needed to successfully fire Salado polychrome pottery. In this post I will show how I have successfully reproduced that firing environment using authentic materials available to the Salado potters.

Until an actual Salado pottery kiln is located we will never know for sure what a Salado pottery firing entailed, but we can work to duplicate the atmosphere and temperatures of a Salado firing as closely as possible.

The firing method that I had outlined in this post was wrong, I will revise with updated information when I have time.

Figure 7. Done right this method results in a good dark carbon core just like real Salado pottery. (Photo by the author)

Figure 7. Done right this method results in a good dark carbon core just like real Salado pottery. (Photo by the author)


There is still much to be learned about the Salado phenomenon, coming to a better understanding of the technology used to create Salado polychrome pottery will help provide a better understanding of Salado as a whole. Experimental archaeology is useful in providing that understanding since some aspects of pottery may not become obvious until one tries to replicate it. For the archaeologist looking to get inside the head of a prehistoric potter and come to a fuller understanding of that pottery, I would recommend that making that pottery may provide insights that could not be achieved with thousands of hours of lab time.

Salado pottery kilns, however elusive, are out there, the problem is that nobody knows what to look for or where to look for them. This is an area where experimental archaeologists have an advantage because they may know better than anyone what subtle clues to look for. It is clear that the Salado were making a lot of pottery and outdoor pottery firings are by nature delicate, resulting at least occasionally in broken pots so that even a small above ground firings can leave ash, charcoal, stones and sherds in a unique arrangement that can be detected.



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About Andy Ward

I am an independent researcher, writer and artist interested in all things Southwestern. Southeast Arizona is my home and area of primary interest.

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