That the type did not exist prior to the 1690s cannot be conclusively proven, but the
fact that it appears together with strongly Puebloan architectural features and is
itself very Puebloan in character, becoming less so with the passage of time, provides
strong support for the conclusion that it originated about this time.
If the Navajos were making pottery at an earlier date, it was probably distinguishably
different from Dinetah Gray. The failure of any such type to appear despite the great
amount of archaeological work that has been done in Navajo country, in which ceramic
studies have been a major interest, seems sufficient evidence to conclude that if such
a type exists, it was produced in minute quantities, within a very restricted portion of
Navajo country, or both.
It is therefore a reasonable conclusion that the production of ceramics, as an important
part of Navajo culture, owes its inception to the influx of Pueblo refugees who arrived
during the reconquest.
The earliest variety of pottery style within the Dinetah Gray category, is the
Gobernador Variety. It is believed to have been the type first made by the Pueblo
refugees who fled to Navajo country in the l690s and to have endured a relatively
short time, perhaps to about 1720.
The major developments in the evolution of the Navajo culinary types were in surface
finish and vessel shape. It is believed that the indented surface lost favor early,
perhaps in part because of a Navajo association of this treatment with the disfiguration
of small pox and measles.
Corncob scraping became the favorite method of surface texturing and has continued in
use to the present time. The distinctive jar form which has received so much attention
is closest to the Largo-Gallina form of prehistoric times.
A very early regional variation has been named the Micaceous Variety. It is found
primarily around Mount Taylor and in the drainage of the Rio Puerco of the east. The
quantity of mica is far less than that in the micaceous types of the plains and foothills
east of Pueblo country.
Whether mica was deliberately added or merely present in the clays or tempers
utilized in this section is not known.
Some Navajo traditional accounts state that one cause of the decimation of the Anasazi
was epidemic disease caused by the production of corrugated pottery.
The last variety to develop in the Dinetah Gray type was the Transitional Variety.
Characterized by sherd temper and somewhat thicker walls than the other varieties, it
foreshadows later developments but retains the jar form so closely associated with
early Navajo pottery.
Navajo Pottery Making
There seems to be little doubt that
some Navajo tribes were producing
pottery by 1700. The only tribe for
which a large series of well dated
excavation pottery sites exists is the
Navajo. These sites begin in the 1690s
and have the earliest known Navajo
pottery type, Dinetah Gray associated.