Jicarilla Apache in the American Southwest
Micaceous Potters Jicarilla History Pottery Analysis Rio Oso Sites


Prior to European contact, the Jicarilla Apache occupied a territory encompassing much of North-central New Mexico, Southern Colorado, and the panhandle of Oklahoma. Historically, they acted as itinerate traders and cultural brokers in an ecologically diverse region that linked Puebloan, Southern Plains and Hispanic cultures. These traditional trading roles changed during the 1800s due increasing culture contact with Euroamerican settlers and socio-political pressures caused by high levels of immigration into the newly annexed American territory of New Mexico.  Currently, most of what we known about the historic Jicarilla come from written documents (See Tiller 1983 and references therein), yet these documents can be quite biased since they often reflect the opinions and actions of sociopolitically powerful interest groups. Archaeology is often used to complement the historical record by providing information about the daily practices of people who did not or could not have a voice in creating this history. Archaeology can provide insights about human action and behavior not normally recoverable through written documents, and when combined with ethnographic and ethnohistoric records, archaeological methods can lead to a better understanding of past social dynamics in rapidly changing frontier settings. 

Dissertation research with Jicarilla Apache materials thus requires a contextual approach that combines several bodies of data to answer specific questions about Jicarilla archaeology and history. First, it is necessary to asses different methods for identifying Jicarilla sites and address the degree to which this is can be done using archaeological and historical materials. Once variability in Apache material culture and site patterning is better understood, their distributions with reference to a historical context can be used to answer questions regarding the role of Jicarilla Apache trade in 19th century New Mexico. 

This web page presents three different aspects of initial research aimed at understanding Jicarilla trade and economy during the latter 1800s. These aspects include work done with a modern Jicarilla Apache potter, and preliminary archaeological research that includes the results of ceramic source analysis as well as a spatial analysis of archaeological sites through time in the Rio del Oso Valley, New Mexico.  A section dealing with Jicarilla history is provided as a general introduction to the topic of interest. 

Pottery instruction with modern Jicarilla potters greatly facilitates research by allowing for the recognition and analysis of archaeological pottery materials. Felipe Ortega's web page is intended to provide an introduction to such techniques and serve as a showcase for his work in micaceous pottery. 

Historically, the Rio del Oso was occupied by the Jicarilla during the latter 1800s. Results of neutron activation analysis of archaeologically recovered Jicarilla ceramic sherds show the feasibility of using this technique to trace the procurement and trade of micaceous wares through space in northern New Mexico, aspects of pottery production important for understanding Jicarilla responses to colonial control. 

Spatial analysis of archaeological sites in the Rio del Oso shows the differential use of biotically productive Pleistocene terraces by people occupying the valley for approximately 7,000 years. By comparing landscape utilization by different groups through time, results indicate that the Jicarilla occupied portions of the valley that gave them access to trading routes, agricultural areas and Hispanic settlements. Results also indicate that the Jicarilla and Hispanic villagers partitioned space and activities differently within the valley while coexisting at some level of familiarity. Historic records from this time indicate that Jicarilla often sold labor and products to Hispanic villagers.


Micaceous Potters Jicarilla History Pottery Analysis Rio Oso Sites