Casas Grandes

The Casas Grandes Culture evolved between AD 1150 and AD 1450 along the river valleys of northern Mexico, extending northward into extreme southern New Mexico and Arizona. The cultural center was the town of Paquimé, also known as Casas Grandes, located along the Rio Casas Grandes. The developmental boom of Casas Grandes culture did not occur until after about 1300.

Characteristics

The people of Casas Grandes seem to have been more closely affiliated with the Mesoamerican peoples to the south than the Mogollon or Hohokam to the north. Platform mounds and ballcourts for ritual activities are characteristic features of Central American cultures at this time. Family groups lived along the river drainages, and developed extensive irrigation systems. The town of Paquimé was a major trading center, through which such luxury items as shells, copper, macaws and pottery made their way into Arizona and New Mexico from Central America.

House Types

Early Casas Grandes sites consist of groups of shallow pithouses arranged around a larger community house. Square contiguous surface rooms followed at a later period. The pithouses and surface rooms were constructed of an advnced form of  jacal, a type of wattle-and-daub construction. The plaza grouping became more prevalent and probably housed lineages, groups of people with common ancestors. Ultimately, a form of poured adobe walls was developed.

Pottery

Early Casas Grandes pottery was similar to the red and brown wares of the Mogollon. These are often decorated with red geometric designs, usually banded. Later, distinctive polychrome varieties appeared, perhaps under the influence of West Mexican Nayarit or Jalisco pottery.


Chihuahua Red Ware

All Casas Grandes pottery types fall into the category of Chihuahua Red Ware.

Material: The clay is brown to light tan.
Construction: Coiling-and-scraping
Firing: Oxidizing atmosphere
Forms: Bowls and jars, effigies.

Mata Red-on-Brown
Mata Red-on-Brown grew out of the earlier Victoria Red-on-Brown. These both developed from the textured wares prevalent during the Viejo period.

Viejo Period

Dublan Polychrome
Dublan Polychrome is found only in a narrow band along the Santa Maria River from just southeast of Paquimé up into southern New Mexico. The type probably grew out of Medanos Red-on-Brown, and is transitional to Ramos Polychrome.

Medio Period

Playas Red Incised
Playas Red Incised is found in the immediate vicinity of Paquimé, and along the Santa Maria valley to the southeast. This type is a later plain ware advancement over the earlier corrugated wares which had their origins in Mogollon land.

Medio Period

Corralitos Polychrome
Corralitos Polychrome Incised has a relatively small range, being found around Paquimé and a short distance to the south. It appears to be the polychrome version of Playas Red Incised.

Medio Period

Madera Black-on-Red
Madera Black-on-Red is found throughout the same range as Babicora Polychome, primarily to the south of Paquimé.

Medio Period

Babicora Polychrome
Babicora Polychrome was produced mainly in the region to the south of Paquimé, but it is found all the way into southern New Mexico.

Medio Period

Carretas Polychrome
Carretas Polychrome designs are similar to Babicora Polychrome, but are generally limited to a single band rather than multiple bands. The type is found primarily to the north and west of Paquimé.

Medio Period

Huerigos Polychrome
Huerigos Polychrome is identical to Carretas Polychrome, except that in addition to the red and black painted decoration, a white slip is also present.

Medio Period

Escondida Polychrome
Escondida Polychrome is very similar to the Salado Polychromes being produced in southeastern Arizona.

Medio Period

Villa Ahumada Polychrome
Villa Ahumada Polychrome is probably a precursor to Ramos Polychrome. Its range is nearly as wide, but it centers not in Paquimé but further to the east. Although the painted decoration is well executed, the slip is chalky and often flakes off.

Medio Period

Ramos Polychrome
Ramos Polychrome represents the pinnacle of achievement in Casas Grandes ceramics. Although the focus is around Paquimé, the type is more widespread than any other, covering the entire range of the Casas Grandes culture.

Medio Period

Ramos Black
Ramos Black can be found over a wide range, from the Santa Maria valley to southern New Mexico and Arizona, but it is highly concentrated in the area around Paquimé.

Medio Period