Home Page  |  News  |  Events  |  Links
Online Articles : by Author  |  by Subject  |  by County
  Timelines  |  Site Names  |  Maps  |  Glossary  |  Everything Else   
<==Previous Page



Adan E. Treganza

Contents:    Forward
Key to Types

This essay originally appeared as Paper No. 22 of the Robert E. Schenk Archives of California Archaeology. It is dated June 15, 1946, and appears to be a student paper.

This paper is not to be considered a completed project. Time has not permitted an analysis of the great quantity of data at hand. For this reason it does not seem feasible at the present to draw any conclusions other than those ending in general statements. This is an account of the progress up to date and an outline of future undertakings which I hope will terminate in a published manuscript Californian Clay Artifacts. The work is to be published under joint authorship with E.W. Gifford; though up to the present Mr. Gifford has not entered the project in an active way, he has been available to pass judgment and to offer advice on points related to typological differences, where it seemed the opinion of another person was needed.

So far the nature of the work has been time consuming and of a type which sheds little light on information in terms of desired results. A little over 3000 baked clay "balls" have been examined and classified as to type. Over 5000 pottery sherds, clay pipes, and other artifacts have been selected but have not been segregated as to fall into any sort of classification. It has been necessary to go through the entire ethnological and archaeological collection of the Museum of Anthropology and to select all specimens of baked clay objects which were complete enough to fit into a typological classification. Next, it was necessary to check each individual specimen against the catalog to make certain sufficient data was available to warrant use of the specimen in so far as a distributional study was concerned. A general statement or a county location was not definite enough for our purposes inasmuch as many of the conclusions we shall reach may rest upon such a small but important point as the relative position of a given artifact (type) within the levels of a given mound. Especially is this so for the baked clay objects of the delta region of the Lower Sacramento Valley. In the case of pottery the demands are not so rigid for here most of the finds are of a surface nature and our temporal conclusions may rest upon geographical distribution rather than one of the vertical position.

The third and most difficult step has been to arrange the specimens into an objective typological classification. It is necessary in selecting the elements which will for the basis of a certain type not in any way to let the individual personality enter the problem. For this reason it is a good idea to have several people voice their opinions to make sure a type rests on real bases and not some secondary feature. For the purpose of a purely objective classification "function" can play no part in determining the basis upon which a type shall rest. A.D. Krieger (1944:271-288) in his article The Typological Concept attempts to build up the idea that in order for a typological study to be of any use or value it must rest upon a functional base. On paper where working "facts" can be covered over with words such a classification looks good, but in practice it neither works nor are the obtained results of any significant value. In working with archaeological specimens it is a rarity when the observer can obtain good concrete data either in preserved or historical form as to the precise function of an artifact. "Function" to the archaeologist, in most cases, rests upon the individual's ability to reconstruct use through what he observes at the time of excavating plus what he can imply through association on the examination of his final results. Occasionally through the action of some unusual preserving agent he can obtain more information than usual, but at best unless his assumptions are reinforced by ethnological fact, he can only imply use or function, and even then the point is frequently left open to question. In California, if we are to group mortars on the basis of function then we would have to lump both the wood and stone types together. If on the other hand they are treated as separate types, then when plotted geographically they take on a definite meaning in terms of distributional study. If Southwestern pottery is to be treated solely on the basis of function when then becomes of the mass of data relating to design elements, for it is upon the latter that time differences rest.

That function has a part to play in typological studies is not denied, but that part likewise has a place and the position of that place is not one which can dominate the entire study. Much more can be gained in terms of temporal and distributional studies if we can point out that certain types were used for certain functions--it is then that function begins to take on meaning in this sort of study.

One can select several methods upon which to base on objective classification. There are size, shape, decoration, weight, or the material composition, any of which might be justifiable for use in forming the base upon which to erect an objective typological study. It depends in great part what the individual desires to demonstrate and therefore great care should be exercised in selecting elements which will produce the greatest amount of valid information for whatever feature he wants to show. In some cases weight alone will do the job, other times it takes a combination of elements arranged in their proper perspective to fully make clear a point. Again, the material dealt with may in part determine the method--more can be gained by making a study of Southern California pottery on the basis of the type of clay used, the form and decoration, than if just cubic capacity and weight were considered. No doubt a purely objective classification could be made on the basis of the latter but would the value of the results obtained exceed that of the former?

Unfortunately there are no set standards upon which anthropological classifications can be based and to make things more difficult there is a considerable amount of difference of opinion among anthropologists as to the validity of the methods now in use. No greater hodgepodge exists anywhere than is found today in anthropological literature especially in archaeological artifact descriptions and classifications.

In this paper we desire to accomplish three main things: (1) To describe and classify all the baked clay artifacts which are in the Museum of Anthropology which have been collected within the political boundaries of California. The method used will be the objective typological system. (2) To present this material in such a form that it will have some meaning in terms of a distributional and temporal study. (3) Above all we hope to produce a paper simple enough in terminology and description so that it will be found as a real use to students both in and out of California.

In many instances it seems clear that form and function are closely related, especially where utilitarian objects are concerned. Particularly does this seem true in the case of the baked clay objects found in the Lower Sacramento Valley. What little archaeological evidence we do have which gives us some clue to usage, shows us there is a close relationship between the two. For this reason we have selected the outline form upon which to base the major divisions of our classification. As to how an object was made, i.e., modeled by hand, molded by pressing on to a basketry foundation, or wrapped in tule or grass seems to be of secondary importance and therefore occupies that position in the structure of the typology. To be more exact, the thing we feel is important is to show that a certain general type was say, used for "stone boiling" regardless of whether it was made on a basket and therefore shows basket imprints, or whether it was modeled by hand and shows only hand prints. These secondary features, if they have any importance should automatically show up as being significant when a distributional and temporal study is made. Some differences may be noted in regard to the amount of temper and general texture of the clays used. Also it may be observed that some objects were fired in an oxidizing flame while others were subjected to the carbonization resulting from a reduced flame. Again it is important that we know that controlled or oven firing was unknown to these people and that whether a fired object came out a brick red or a dirty smudged gray was purely an accident depending upon local condition. In the Southwest where more or less controlled firing was practiced such a feature would be considered of utmost importance, but in our case it does not have sufficient value to mention other than an expression of range or degree.

In dealing with any large series of objects that have been created by the hand of man one sooner or later encounters cases where the individual expression breaks away from the formal pattern and the exception to the case is created. In our present study we find such expressions remaining as a unique residue after the most obvious types have been segregated out. These, we feel must be described individually for experience has shown us that in the field of archaeology evidence accumulates only in proportion to the amount of work we do, what might be a unique specimen today could become type tomorrow depending upon the chance of discovery. Also we have to bear in mind that some of these unique specimens are purely the result of accident and so far as mass production is concerned no similar type will ever turn up.

In the case of true pottery vessels and pottery objects related to this complex several factors have to be considered since they enter into the question of temporal and distributional differences. Experience both in the field and in the laboratory make it apparent that numerous factors have to be taken into consideration. To design a typological study along just one or two lines of evidence would result in an incomplete picture. Size, shape, and function are one set of categories; a second are those of hardness, temper, texture, firing, mineral composition, and color of the clay; a third set is that of technique in design, showing either a plain, painted or incised surface. A fourth step and one which we are not equipped to undertake is that of a mineralogical and optical analysis.

It was mentioned earlier that the author should take into consideration his subject before attempting to set forth the basis upon which his types rest. Personal experience and published results would seem to indicate that the pottery complex of Southern California should first be considered on the basis of the type of clay used. This automatically almost divides the entire area into two major divisions. It is most fortunate that this division is likewise correlated with a marked physiographic difference which in turn has had a direct bearing upon external ceramic form. However, since a compete study of ceramics is yet to be made nothing much can be said at this time in regard to typological classification.


Field work within the last ten years has at last brought California archaeology into the picture where it can begin to assume its proper perspective in the overall reconstruction of prehistory in the West. The ethnologist now finds himself in a position where it is made easy for him to dip into the late phases of the archaeological picture if he desires to add depth to his historical reconstructions. In reverse the archaeologists can now use with more ease the historical records, which in many cases hold for him the terminal results of his cultural reconstructions. Actually, there now remain but few sharp lines where one stops and the other begins. Heizer's (1941) article A Direct-Historical Approach in California Archaeology, neatly bridges over the gap and makes even more clear the dependency which the two fields reflect upon one another.

Of all the lines of evidence upon which California archaeology is based, none is more interesting or offers any more of a problem than that of baked clay artifacts. Wissler (1922:226) first characterized California as being a non-ceramic area. Kroeber (1922) later showed pottery was not only made in the greater part of extreme Southern California but likewise in a more restricted area north of the Tehachapi Mountains. The latter was confirmed by Gayton in her 1929 work on pottery making among the Yokuts and Western Mono. Following this, Rogers (1928, 1929, 1936, 1939, 1941, 1945) and Treganza (1942) have given fuller accounts in reference to the prehistoric picture.

In addition to these first observations of true pottery vessels in California, the occurrence of baked clay objects was noted in the delta region of the Sacramento Valley. The first specific mention of such a practice was made by Meridith (1900) and subsequently by Holmes (1902), Jones (1923), and Schenck (Schenck and Dawson 1929). The latter produced the first scientific treatment of the subject. The problem was picked up again in 1937 by Heizer, who in the light of new discoveries presented us with a complete picture of the entire complex. Nordenskiold (1930) offered the opinion that the Sacramento Delta region was a parallel of independent invention of a substitute for stone to the Amazon delta region.

More recently Heizer and Beardlsey (1943) have published a note on Fired Clay Figurines in Central and Northern California describing a practice, which at present seems unrelated to anything else in the California picture.

In view of the present data it can be shown that California in its past history has been subjected to four separate developments of ceramic practices. Two of these practices can be traced to Southwestern influences or better origins. The third seems to be a case of independent development resulting from a special environmental factor. The fourth still remains a current problem. Since all four were apparently unrelated, each involving its own set of problems, they will be discussed independently. We will start with the largest and most highly developed complex, that of Southern California.

In terms of technological techniques the ceramic complex of Southern California is comparable to anything found in the Southwest, with the exception of the more specialized development along the more aesthetic lines as expressed in painting and decoration. When first encountered, pottery in California was a fully developed part of native culture and well intergraded in terms of environmental adjustments. The old idea that California pottery was the resultant influence of missionization can completely be done away with; if anything, it was a disrupting effect upon an old and well established pattern. In point of time, it can be shown on the basis of cross-dating with Southwestern sherds, the so-called "Yuman" ceramic complex had its beginning around the ninth century and continued through several periods of expansion right up to the historic period. The geographical center of this art was in the Colorado River basin, north of Yuma. At its peak of development it expanded over an even greater area than that held by the Yuman speaking peoples of the early historic period. On the Pacific Coast sherds occur from Los Angeles south to a point about 350 miles into Lower California. Along the Colorado River finds have been made as far north as the junction with the Virgin River in Nevada and south to the Gulf of California where a break occurs until Tiburon Island is reached. In view of recent finds made by Gifford (1946) at Punta Peñasco the isolation of Seri ceramics is now not so great. The truth is that an examination of the coastal belt between the mouth of the Colorado River and Tiburon Island would probably reveal a continuous distribution of Yuman type ceramics. The earliest known Yuman pottery shares traits both in common with early Pueblo and Hohokam types; though in the main the entire Southern California ceramic picture appears to be a peripheral development which advanced upon its own special lines, but drawing strongly in its early stages from the Gila-Sonora cultural area.

The second ceramic area of California lies wholly to the north of the Tehachapi Mountains and occupies a band engulfing the southern San Joaquin Valley across the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Nevada line with Mono Lake marking the northern limit. The ceramic complex as found here is limited to the manufacture of crude, thick, flat bottomed vessels; compared with it either technologically or artistically, Yuman pottery would have to be considered its superior. In the archaeological picture this trait is wholly lacking in depth. The sherds recovered from sites occur on the surface or very upper levels and on a comparative basis they are identical with the pottery made by the Yokuts and Western Mono of the historic period. In all appearances it looks as though this second ceramic complex in California is but an extension of the one that characterized the Great Basin or intermountain area for the distribution between the areas is complete without any apparent breaks. Originally the entire problem relates itself to an Anasazi origin. In a technological sense this pottery differs from that made along the Colorado River, for in the case of the former the finishing technique is that of scraping, whereas the latter is accomplished by the paddle-anvil method.

The third area is fairly well restricted to the delta region of the Lower Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers in Central California. This ceramic complex appears to be unique in a double sense; first, no true pottery vessels or containers were made; and second, such objects as were made served as substitutes for stone since this was a region of alluvial fill and usable stone in any form was totally absent. It is interesting to note that the bulk of the sites which contain baked clay objects fall within the contour line which divides the alluvial soils of the valley from the rocky horizons of the foothills. The evidence at hand would indicate that these fired clay objects were used as substitutes for sinker stones, sling stones, and for cooking stones for this was a region of stone-boiling in baskets. If form be any indicator of function, then there are a great many more uses as substitutes than we can suggest on the basis of our indirect evidence. Likewise several forms or types might well have served the same function. Unfortunately ethnological observations are lacking.

Schenck was the first to bring this interesting complex into a scientific light, but remained up to Heizer to add detail and approach the subject from an objective point of view in the light of more specimens and fuller data. The archaeology of Central California falls into a threefold classification, that of early, transitional, and late. Such a division rests upon a temporal, typological, and physiographic basis. At the time Heizer first published baked clay artifacts were known to occur only in the so called late period. At the time no great antiquity was indicated and it seemed most feasible to look for an outside stimulus for such a distinctly non-Californian trait--for this the Anasazi area of the Southwest was suggested. However, subsequent archaeological undertakings have shown that a very specific type of baked clay object was made in the early period. On the basis of our present chronology this would set the origin of baked clay in California too far back in time to allow for a convenient diffusion from the Southwest. The early period of development in California was a fairly well set cultural unit about the time Basketmaker II was getting underway in developing their own ceramic industry. Something in the way of exact dating can be shown by Gifford's Californian Shell Artifact study [a manuscript at the time Treganza wrote this paper, but published in 1947] where intrusive California specimens show up in datable stratigraphic deposits in the Southwest. The bulk of the evidence now points to a case of independent invention for California which Heizer suggests in a recent paper now in press. His present conclusions are that it is a practice indigenous to the delta region of the Lower Sacramento Valley. To this conclusion we offer no objection but rather add that the practice climaxed by spreading as far south as the Southern San Joaquin Valley where it overlapped with the pottery complex described for the Yokuts and Western Mono. Here specimens were noted by Wedel (1941) at Buena Vista Lake in his late phase.

The fourth aspect of ceramics in California is to be found expressed in the unusual practice of making fired clay human figurines as found in Central and Northern California. Such data as exist on the subject have been collected and published by Heizer and Beardsley (1943). They are unable to relate this practice to anything else in California and leave the reader with a choice of independent invention or an early contact with the northern periphery of the Southwest.

In addition to these four main areas there have been found a few occurrences of baked clay objects outside of any of these areas. In the case of the ethnographic account among the Pomo (Loud 1918) we find the specimens were used for sling stones. Loud's finds at Humboldt Bay are like those of the Pomo and may well have served the same function.


A. Pottery "Balls" and other solid forms.
   1. Round, rounded flat, elongated or flattened, angular cylinder.
      a. Plain.
      b. Cattail or cord imprint.
      c. Basket imprint.
      d. Incised.
      e. Punctated.
      f. Incised and punctated.
      g. Finger imprints (squeeze).
      h. Multiple pits (finger tips).
   2. Spool shaped.
      a. Plain.
      b. Cattail and cord imprint.
      c. Basket imprint.
   3. Cupped or pitted.
      a. Cupped or pitted on one surface.
         I. Plain.
      b. Cupped or pitted on two surfaces.
         I. Plain.
   4. Cone shaped.
      a. Biconical.
         I. Basket imprint.
         II. Plain.
      b. Uniconical.
         I. Plain, flattened or concave base.
         II. Plain, convex base.
         III. Plain with hole in concave base.
         IV. Punctated concave base.
   5. Triangular.
      a. Plain.
      b. Basket imprint.
   6. Partly grooved.
      a. Longtudinal groove.
         I. One side grooved.
            i. Plain.
            ii. Basket imprint.
         II. Two sides grooved.
            i. Plain.
            ii. Basket imprint.
         III. Three sides grooved.
            i. Plain.
         IV. Four sides grooved.
            i. Plain.
         V. Five sides grooved.
            i. Plain.
   7. Drum shaped.
      a. Flat to convex ends.
   8. Flat irregular discoidals.
         I. Plain.
         II. Tule or grass imprint.
         III. Basket imprint.
   9. Figurines.
      a. Human.
         I. Plain.
         II. Incised.
      b. Animal.
      c. Bird.
   10. Stemmed (pottery anvils).
B. Perforated types.
   1. Doughnut.
      a. Plain.
      b. Incised.
      c. Punctated.
   2. Hemispheres.
      a. Plain.
      b. Incised.
      c. Punctated.
   3. Discoidals.
   4. Bell-shaped.
   5. Spindle.
   6. Spool shaped, tule impressed.
C. Tubular.
   1. Pipe.
   2. Cylinder.
      a. Punctated.
      b. Basket imprint.
   3. Bead.
D. Hollow.
   1. Rattle.

The manuscript we obtained from the Schenk Archives did not include references. The following have been reconstructed from the literature, and in some cases represent our best guesses as to which sources were used. A few references are unknown at this time.

Gayton, Anna H. 1929. Yokuts and Western Mono Pottery-making.University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 24(3):239-251.

Gifford, E.W. 1946. Archaeology in the Punta Peñasco region, Sonora. American Antiquity 11:215-221.

Gifford, E.W. 1947. Californian Shell Artifacts. University of California Anthropological Records 9(1).

Heizer, R.F. 1937. Baked Clay Objects of the Lower Sacramento Valley, California. American Antiquity 3(1):34-50.

Heizer, R.F. 1941. A Direct-Historical Approach in California Archaeology. American Antiquity 7(2):98-122.

Heizer, R.F. and R.K. Beardsley. 1943. Fired Clay Figurines in Central and Northern California. American Antiquity 9:199-207.

Holmes, W.H. 1902. Anthropological Studies in California. Smithsonian Institution, Report of the U.S. National Museum for 1900. Washington, D.C.

Jones, P.M. 1923. Mound Excavations Near Stockton. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 20(7):113-122.

Krieger, A.D. 1944. The Typological Concept. American Antiquity 9:271-288.

Kroeber, A.L. 1922. Elements of Culture in Native California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 13(8):259-328.

Meridith, H.C. 1900. Archaeology in California: Central and Northern California. Pp. 258-294 in: W.K. Moorehead, ed., Prehistoric Implements. Robert Clarke, Cincinnati.

Nordenskiold, Erik. 1930. Modifications in Indian Culture Through Inventions and Loans. Oxford University Press, Goteborg.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1928. Unknown.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1929. The Stone Art of the San Dieguito Plateau.American Anthropologist 31(3):454-467.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1936. Yuman Pottery Making. San Diego Museum of Man Papers 2.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1939. Early Lithic Industries of the Lower Basin of the Colorado River and Adjacent Desert Areas. San Diego Museum of Man Papers 3.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1941. Aboriginal Culture Relations between Southern California and the Southwest. San Diego Museum Bulletin 5(3):1-6.

Rogers, Malcolm J. 1945. An Outline of Yuman Prehistory. Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 1(2):167-198.

Schenck, W.E. and E.J. Dawson. 1929. Archaeology of the Northern San Joaquin Valley. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 25(4):289-413.

Treganza, Adan E. 1942. Unknown.

Wedel, W.R. 1941. Archaeological Investigations at Buena Vista Lake, Kern County, California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 130, Washington, D.C.

Wissler. 1922. The American Indian. Second edition. Oxford University Press, New York.

Copyrights 2022 californiaprehistory.com Back to the Top