Ethnography of the Cahuilla Indians, by A. L. Kroeber, , at sacred-texts.com
Of next greatest frequency after basketry and stone implements among the Cahuilla of today, are objects of pottery, though they are seldom if ever manufactured now. Native pottery is of interest in California because until a few years ago it was believed not to occur. Its distribution is restricted. It is of greatest importance among the Yuman tribes living on the Colorado, who are without basketry of their own. It is made also by the Diegueño and by the interrelated Luiseño, Agua Caliente, and Cahuilla Indians. The Gabrielino and the tribes beyond, such as the Chumash, did not make pottery. No undoubted pieces have been found in the numerous archaeological explorations of the Santa Barbara islands. Whether the Serrano had pottery, and if so which of their divisions, is unknown. It was made to some extent by the Chemehuevi and probably other closely related Paiute tribes in the part of California bordering on the Mohave habitat and on southernmost Nevada. As compared with the pottery-making Mohave, these Paiute-Chemehuevi tribes
are basket makers; but under Mohave influence they seem also to have practiced the manufacture of pottery somewhat. Several vessels obtained from the Chemehuevi at Twenty-nine Palms and Cabezon are in the University collections. North of Tehachapi pottery has been found in only one region, the southern Sierra Nevada, where both Yokuts and Mono made it to some extent. This pottery is small, dark gray or brownish, unpainted and unornamented, and quite rude. Whether the art is a recently acquired one among these Indians is not known. No archaeological investigations that might throw evidence on the question have been carried on in this mountain region, nor does the nature of the country offer any great temptations for so doing. This Yokuts and Mono pottery is quite different from that of Southern California in appearance and shapes. It appears to be used for little but cooking. The Yokuts and Mono seem to have lacked the ability of constructing large well-made vessels such as are found in Southern California, or not to have felt the need of making them. Whether the principal pottery-making area in the southern part of the state was connected with the subsidiary one in the Sierra Nevada by an intervening area in which pottery was used, is doubtful. If there was such a territorial connection, it must have been by tribes of Ute-Chemehuevi affiliation or of Serrano affinity.
All the pottery of Southern California is of one type. It is a light, thin, rather brittle red ware. On the Colorado river it is almost always ornamented, among the basket making tribes more often unornamented. The painting is in only one color, a red somewhat darker than the surface. Among the Mohave this color is produced by painting the unfired pot with yellow ochre, which burns red. Among the Cahuilla a red stone, apparently an oxide of iron, was said to be used for the same purpose.
Only three ornamented pieces of pottery were seen among the Cahuilla. One of these was a broken discarded dish, another a jar in the possession of the Chemehuevi at Cabezon, and the third, a black-painted jar which will be described below. The designs on the two red-painted pieces are identical with typical Mohave painting. Mohave pottery designs consist most frequently of patterns of parallel lines, either straight, zigzag, or
forking; of rhombi or crossed or branching lines with or without adjacent dots; and of angles and triangles with the corners filled in. Realistic drawings, round lines, or separate geometrical figures of any elaborateness, are not attempted. There is very little resemblance to any past or present pottery of the Pueblo region.
The black-painted jar from San Gorgonio pass (Pl. 10) is unique not only in the color of its ornamentation, but in its pattern, which differs thoroughly from designs of the Mohave type. It is more finely executed with narrow lines, the ornamental handling of which is reminiscent of the ancient Pueblo style. The star shape of the pattern suggests the basket ornamentation of the Cahuilla.
Like the pottery of the Mohave, that of the Cahuilla was made by coiling together narrow cylinders or ropes of clay, which were then patted between a smooth rounded stone and a wooden paddle. The degree to which the art is now in abeyance may be judged from the fact that neither of these implements was seen. As Dr. Barrows has noticed, the vessel is not kept away from the fire in burning, so that it is often blackened in spots. The same is true of Mohave and Luiseño pottery. In recent times the Cahuilla have used dung for firing their pottery. Before the introduction of domestic animals they employed the wood of certain shrubs. Among the Mohave the making and baking of pottery, which takes place before an open wood fire, may still be seen.
There are four principal forms of Cahuilla pottery: a small-mouthed jar for water and perhaps for the storage of seeds; a somewhat wider-mouthed jar; a cooking pot, of which the mouth is approximately of the same diameter as the body of the vessel; and an open bowl or dish of perhaps half as great a depth as diameter. (Pl. 9, upper figures and lower left.) These forms are made with comparatively little variation except in size, and are identical with Mohave types, even to the binding of the bowl or dish with a strip of mesquite fibre just below the rim to insure greater strength. The only divergent forms that have been seen are a vessel with incurved mouth (Pl. 9, lower right), thus being intermediate in form between the open dish and the jar; and one or two small roughly-made dishes of a dull dark red
color with a flat bottom. Of these one was obtained at Banning, the other from one of the Indio reservations. It is not certain that either of these two forms represents anything more than a sporadic aberrance.
To judge from a smaller number of specimens that have been seen, the pottery of the Luiseño and Diegueño is identical with that of the Cahuilla. While the forms of vessels made by all these Mission tribes are found also among the Mohave, the Mohave manufacture other types which do not occur among the Mission Indians, at least at the present day. Such are an asymmetrical small-mouthed jar having the shape of a swimming duck and called "duck jar;" a pottery spoon; and flat round or oval dishes nearly as shallow as one of our plates, though of a gently flaring curvature.
As compared with the practical identity of the Colorado river and the Mission region pottery in all other respects, the almost regular absence of painting from the Mission ware, and its customary presence on Mohave vessels, is of special significance. It is another instance of the want of the symbolic and pictorial tendency that is so strangely undeveloped among all California Indians.
As pottery is more important to the Yuman tribes of the Colorado river than to the Cahuilla and coast Indians, and as these latter are basket makers, it may be presumed that its use was earlier among the former, as their closer proximity to the Southwestern culture-area would also render probable.