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By Geoffrey McCafferty (2008; updated 2013)

Cholula's polychrome pottery has been described as among the most beautiful of pre-Columbian Mexico.  Beginning in the Early Postclassic period (c. 800 CE) polychromes utilize elements of the highly symbolic Mixteca-Puebla stylistic tradition. However, since Cholula sits atop an excellent source of clay-rich tepetate, it has been an important production site of ceramics since its early occupation in the Middle Formative period (c. 1000 BCE), and in fact is still a major producer of ceramic bricks that are exported throughout Mexico. 

Cholula polycromes were described by Eduard Seler and George Vaillant in the early 20th century, but it was Eduardo Noguera who began the first detailed analysis in the 1930s and culminating in his excellent volume La Ceramica de Cholula (1954).  The use of color plates to illustrate the different polychrome types made this a very influential study, and enhanced the fame of Cholula polychromes.  During the secong phase of the Proyecto Cholula, Florencia Muller analyzed 2.3 million pieces of pottery, resulting in her La Alfareria de Cholula (1978).  This volume takes a more functionalist approach to the pottery, with greater emphasis on vessel form.  It is the standard that has been used for much of the recent ceramic classification by INAH archaeologists.

Coapan Laca bowl

Coapan Laca biconical bowl 


In the 1980s another ceramic classification began under the supervision of Michael Lind at the Universidad de las Americas (UDLA) in Cholula.  Lind and Charles Caskey studied the pottery from Late Postclassic contexts from the UA-79 excavations, and Caskey expanded those categories with a huge assemblage excavated from a rescue project at the future site of the Villas Aqueologicas hotel.  These projects created a new system specifically for the Postclassic that was distributed in manuscript form.  Later, Lind created another classification system, with new names, that he used in an important study of polychrome design elements (1994); this system is currently used by archaeologists from the UDLA (e.g., Hernandez   ).

My own ceramic classification grew out of the UDLA system, but was based more specifically on the Early Postclassic UA-1 assemblage excavated by Daniel Wolfman (1968).  Thus it combines terminlogy from the original Lind and Caskey typology plus some new terms that I added as I discovered new types.  This classification was presented in my PhD dissertation (1993) and published as The Ceramics of Postclassic Cholula, Mexico:

To make sense out of this cacaphony of classifications, I created this correlation table:



NOGUERA (1954)                      MCCAFFERTY (2001)                          LIND (1994)


Decoración negro sobre          Cocoyotla Black on Natural,                  Xicotenco Black on Orange

    color natural del barro                Sencillo subtype

                                                      Cocoyotla Black on Natural,

                                                             Banded subtype

                                                       Cocoyotla Black on Natural,

                                                             Chalco subtype

Policroma mate                          Cuaxiloa Matte Polychrome

                                                       Cocoyotla Black on Natural,

                                                           Elegante subtype

                                                        Ocotlán Red Rim,                                Cristina Polychrome

                                                             Cristina Matte subtype

Policroma firme                           Torre Red and Orange on White       Albina Polychrome


                                                        Aquiahuac Burnt Orange

                                                             Polychrome.Santa Catarina


                                                        Ocotlán Red Rim,                                   Estela Polychrome

                                                              Elegante subtype

Policroma laca                              Coapan Laca Polychrome                    Catalina Polychrome

                                                          San Pedro Polished Red,

                                                                 Elegante subtype

                                                           Apolo Black and Red on Orange

                                                                 Polychrome, Elegante subtype

Decoración negro o rojo              Apolo Polychrome,

sobre anaranjado                                Geometrico subtype

                                                          Aquiahuac Polychrome,                              Diana Polychrome

                                                                 Zocalo subtype

Decoración sencillo                      Apolo Polychrome,                                       Nila Polychrome

                                                                 Sencillo subtype

                                                           Aquiahuac Polychrome,                              Silvia Polychrome

                                                                Sencillo subtype

                                                           Ocotlán Red Rim,                                         Marta Polychrome

                                                                Sencillo subtype

                                                            Ocotlán Red Rim,

                                                                 Banded subtype

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