Anasazi Replica Pottery, The Complete Guide

Anasazi Replica Pottery, The Complete Guide

Ah, Anasazi pottery it is beautiful, sumptuous and so desirable yet purchasing any can leave you owning an item of questionable ethical and legal standing.

The obvious solution to these problems is replica pottery. If you buy it from an artist who makes it true to the ancient traditions the result is pottery that is just as good as any relic or even better (it is new after all). If you are interested in acquiring some Anasazi pottery please read this article first, in it I will explore the pros, cons, the in and outs of Anasazi replica pottery.

Problems With Buying Relic Pottery

There are some amazing Anasazi relic pots on the market. I keep an eye on the auction sites myself, not to purchase but to keep an eye out for pieces to recreate.

Illegal activity

The problem of course with buying prehistoric artifacts is that you don’t know if they have been legally obtained. Thousands of prehistoric artifacts are stolen each year from public and tribal lands in the American Southwest. Stolen from the American people for profit. To be sure each piece of ancient pottery purchased will come with an affidavit saying that out came from private land, but there is no way to prove that. If you were a criminal trying to sell stollen goods wouldn’t you sign such a certificate too?

Disrespect for knowledge and ancient people

The other problem with buying artifacts is that these are usually ripped from the ground with no documentation or measurement whatsoever. Archaeologists in the Southwest have been working diligently for many years to try to piece together the story of just what happened in this region in prehistoric times and there are still many unanswered questions. At this point many, many ruins have been destroyed through plowing over for agriculture, by building shopping centers and neighborhoods on top of them, and by artifact collectors. This fact makes the ruins we have left all the more precious to be learned from.

Ruining the ruins

These collectors, in my experience, never take any pains to preserve the ruin itself, they don’t take notes that could prove useful in answer archaeological questions and they carelessly toss aside items that could be useful for study if these items have no monetary value. I have seen whole sites in the Mimbres Mogollon area that have been leveled by bulldozer in order to get to the pots in burials under the floor. They consistently show a gross disregard for the knowledge that can be obtained from these ruins and a lack of respect for the ancient people who lived there. Do you support this kind of wanton destruction?

Replica Anasazi pottery being carefully painted using a photo of the original.
Replica Anasazi pottery being carefully painted using a photo of the original.

Advantages of Anasazi Replica Pottery

Anasazi replica pottery has a number of advantages over prehistoric artifacts. Some of those are.

  • Know that you are not supporting grave robbers and scumbags who are ripping artifacts from the ground with little care for science or respect for the past.
  • You are getting authentically made Anasazi pottery in like new condition. The artifacts for sale are usually broken and glued and have missing pieces filled in with Plaster of Paris or Bondo and the paint is touched up with acrylic paints.
  • Buying Anasazi replicas is supporting real, living artists and helping to fund the recreation of a lost art.
  • Prices are often significantly lower for replica pottery.

What to Look For

In order to feel comfortable buying Anasazi replica pottery you need to know something about how it is made and what questions to ask the artist. I am here to help educate, below are the important points to look for when buying replicas Anasazi pottery.

No store bought materials – if the pottery is made like real Anasazi pottery then the raw materials used to make it do not come from a store and are not shipped in from the east coast or China or somewhere else. Real Anasazi pottery uses local materials from the American Southwest so the art produced is a real part of and has real connections to the land the Anasazi called home.

No modern tools used – if the pottery is really made like Anasazi pottery then it uses the same or similar tools. No rubber ribs for shaping or extruders for coils, real gourd ribs and hand rolled coils are how authentic Anasazi replica pottery is formed.

Not kiln fired – perhaps the biggest shortcut of all for modern Pueblo potters. If you go to Acoma or Zuni Pueblo today you will be hard pressed to find any pottery that is traditionally fired outdoors. Only outdoor fired pottery can truly be called authentic Anasazi replica work.

If you find a nice piece that you like that does not meet the above criteria go ahead and purchase it if you want. But the price should be appropriately lower to compensate for the shortcuts taken in the manufacture of that ware.

Red and brown wares ready for a traditional firing
Red and brown wares ready for a traditional firing

Authentic Anasazi Replica Artists

There are a few really authentic makers of Anasazi replica pottery around. Support living artists who are keeping alive the art of Anasazi pottery by looking these people up.

Me, Andy Ward – my work focuses on the Anasazi/Mogollon interface, types that were created when Pueblo culture came into close contact with Mogollon people farther south creating types like White Mountain Red Ware and Salado Polychromes.

John Olsen – he has been making replica pottery since maybe as far back as the 1970s and is a true master of the art. He possesses an array of methods he can use to produce authentic looking pottery but what he is best know for is corrugated pottery. John does not have a website.

Clint Swink – he rediscovered the firing process used to create Mesa Verde style black on white pottery in the 90s. He is a stickler for authenticity so you can be assured that his work has the highest degree of authenticity. https://swinkart.com

Tony Soares – he makes mostly Mojave Desert paddle and anvil style pottery but occasionally makes pottery of other Southwest cultures such as Anasazi, Hohokam etc. https://tonysoarespotteryonline.com

Bob Casias – he was a student of Clint Swink many years ago and his pottery follows that same high standard and Mesa Verde style of production. http://www.potteryoftheancients.com

Kelly Magleby – She is a protege of the great John Olsen and like him makes great and authentic Anasazi pottery replicas of the finest quality. https://www.anasazipottery.net

Cherylene Caver – she makes Anasazi, Plains Woodland and also some San Juan Red Ware pottery types. Her work is very good and of the highest quality. https://www.cherylenecaver.com

Note: The order of artists above is by years of experience as best I can judge. Except for me because I own this website I moved myself to the front of the line, in actual order I would be near Tony.

Cherylene Caver unloads a fired traditional Anasazi kiln
Cherylene Caver unloads a fired traditional Anasazi kiln

Learn to Make Replicas Yourself

The obvious alternative to buying replicas or supporting grave diggers is to learn to make prehistoric pottery replicas yourself. Here are a few different ways you could learn to make Anasazi replica pottery yourself.

  • In-person workshops. Most of the pottery replicators listed above also teach workshops occasionally, check on their websites for schedules. You can see what workshops I have coming up by following this link.
  • Read a book. Clint Swink wrote an excellent book that explains the entire process used to recreate Mesa Verde style Anasazi pottery. You can get it on Amazon at this link.
  • Online class. I have several online video based classes on prehistoric pottery replication available on this website at affordable prices. Follow this link to see what is currently available, new classes are added frequently.
  • Watch a YouTube video. I also have a YouTube channel with lots of great information about recreating ancient pottery. You can check it out at this link.
  • Attend the Southwest Kiln Conference. This annual gathering of pottery replicators is a great way to learn how it is done and meet others with the same interest. www.swkiln.com

Conclusion

Pot hunters show blatant disregard for the past and often dig artifacts illegally on public land. Pottery replicators are keeping alive the ancient Anasazi pottery traditions and are starving artists in need of support. Their work is usually of the highest quality looking just like the Anasazi pottery did when it was just made and often costing less. Please support living artists who are doing a great service in providing alternatives to pottery plundered from ruins.

I've been making primitive pottery since I was a teenager in the 80's. My work focuses on reproducing the beautiful and complex polychrome pottery styles made in the fourteenth century. I have taught workshops and lectured at venues all over the Southwest. While traditional potters are notoriously closed about sharing information, I believe that "when information is generally useful, redistributing it makes humanity wealthier no matter who is distributing and no matter who is receiving." Because of my feelings about sharing information I created AncientPottery.how to help others who want to learn.

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