Vessel Forms

There is great variety in the shapes of prehistoric pots, both through time and through space. Forms range from the most common, bowls and jars, to pitchers and mugs, to unusual forms such as effigies, canteens and miniatures. Figurines and other clay objects are also included here, as they were produced using the same methods.


Bowls

The bowl is one of the most fundamental of vessels. It can, however, take a variety of forms. 

STANDARD BOWLS

The "standard" bowl is best defined as the lowermost portion of a sphere. It has curving sides and the bottom is only slightly, if at all, flattened. From bottom to rim it is about a third or less of a sphere.

HEMISPHERICAL BOWLS

Hemispherical bowls are like standard bowls, except that from bottom to rim they comprise from one third to over half of the height of a sphere.

FLATTENED HEMISPHERICAL BOWLS

I have coined this term for bowls which have fully curved sides, but much flatter bottoms.

DEEP BOWLS

The deep bowl is generally hemispherical below the midline, and straight-sided above. Rims are usually flared or beveled, as this form is found mostly in the southern areas.

STRAIGHT-SIDED BOWLS

The straight-sided bowl has a flat bottom and straight or very slightly curving sides. They can be deep or shallow, the deeper forms being again more prevalent in the southern areas.

LUGGED BOWLS

Lugged bowls are generally hemispherical, but are provided with a small loop on one side. The purpose of this loop is unclear, but it was probably to improve handling. This treatment is found in the extreme northern areas.

EFFIGY BOWLS

Effigy bowls are those which are made in the shape of animals. Effigies are usually found in jar form, but this exceptional example appears to represent a frog.


Jars

A tremendous variety of vessels falls into the category of jars. Essentially, a jar is any vessel with constricted opening and no handle. Jars may or may not have necks. Again, flaring rims are more typically southern. Hohokam and Salado vessels often have a characteristic "Gila shoulder", an angled portion in the curvature of the vessel, usually near the bottom.

OLLAS

Ollas are very large jars which were used for the storage of water and dry goods. They are usually corrugated, either all over or on the neck only, presumably to improve handling.

GLOBULAR JARS

Globular jars, as the name implies, have roughly spherical bodies. Most also have fairly prominent necks.

LUGGED JARS

In certain areas, particularly during the late Mogollon period, small globular jars were provided with lugs, usually in the shape of an animal head. These lugs probably improved handling, but should not be considered handles.

CANTEENS

Canteens are globular jars with very constricted, short necks and lugs on both sides. This was for suspending the vessel from a line.

BOWL-JARS

This interesting form resulted when a convex upper body was added to a lower body that was essentially a bowl.

GILA SHOULDERS

Hohokam and Salado jars often have a sharp angle along the curvature of the body. This is known as a "Gila shoulder".

SEED JARS

The classic seed jar form is globular, flattened slighty on top and bottom, and has a simple opening.

FLATTENED SEED JARS

This form was particularly popular in the later periods. This example is fairly small, more of a seed jar, though later Hopi examples could be quite large.

NECKED SEED JARS

Small, globular jars with necks probably also served as seed jars, but their form is different enough to warrant a separate name.

CONSTRICTED NECK SEED JARS

Late in the Tularosa Phase of the Mogollon, vessels with extremely constricted necks were produced.


Pitchers and Mugs

Pitchers are large jars with handles. Handles were made in several forms, flat straps, braided or twisted, and occasionally figural.

GLOBULAR PITCHERS

Globular pitchers have roughly spherical bodies and short necks. Handles are usually short with this type.

LONG-NECKED PITCHERS

Pitchers with longer necks generally have longer handles. Bodies can be globular, or a modified spherical form.

SHOULDERED PITCHERS

Some pitchers, particularly in the Chaco Canyon and Mesa Verde areas, have pronounced shoulders, creating a distinctive profile.

EFFIGY PITCHERS

Effigy pitchers are made in the form of an animal, as in the duck shown here. Effigies were popular throughout the Southwest.


Other Forms

Several other forms were made ranging from the more utilitarian, such as mugs and ladles, to the exotic, such as multilobed vessels and figurines.

MUGS

In the North, mugs were made in forms ranging from the modern coffee cup to taller vessels resembling beer steins.

MULTILOBED VESSELS

Vessels with more than one body are considered "multilobed". Despite the small size of these pots, each chamber is distinct and hollow.

LADLES

A ladle is little more than a small bowl with a handle. sometimes the handle has an upturned cusp at the end of the handle, signaling a northern origin.

SCOOPS

Scoops are similar to ladles, except the the handle is in fact a continuation of the bowl, rather than a separate entity.

FIGURINES

Figurines are solid clay objects, and necessarily small. They are usually very roughly crafted and it is difficult to discern which animals are being represented.

MINIATURES

Miniatures are vessels that are too small to be practical, and may have served as toys. The smallest are pinch pots, while the largest may be coiled.