by Arleyn W. Simon
Department of Anthropology - Archaeological Research Institute
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-2402


Salado polychrome ceramics were the most abundant decorated ware of the Classic period (A.D. 1275-1450) in the U.S. Southwest. Several researchers have interpreted Salado polychrome designs as emblematic of a regional cult (Adams 1991; Crown 1994; Rice 1990), that was a precursor to historic religions of the area and that facilitated integration of diverse populations. The painted designs and color scheme of these ceramics are distinctive compared to other contemporaneous and earlier wares. However, study of these other ceramic wares provides information to assess cultural influences on the development of the unique decorative technique and style.

Salado polychrome ceramics (Figure 1) with their distinctive black-on-white with red designs are the marker of the cultural horizon that coincided with the development of platform mound communities. Salado polychrome is the result of a combination of technological traditions that were amalgamated during a time of population movement and change in the central Southwest. The relocation of people from the Colorado Plateau to the south brought together diverse ceramic technologies and decorative traditions of the Anasazi, Mogollon, and Hohokam (Figure 2). The Sinagua culture area encompasses both the plateau and transition zone to Tonto Basin and probably included pre-Classic populations in central Arizona. Salado polychrome ceramics have been recovered in sites from central Arizona, to southwestern New Mexico, to northern Chihuahua at the site of Casas Grandes.

The Tonto Basin, an extension of the Sonoran Desert located in the transition zone between plateau and desert (Figure 2), has long been considered the heartland of the Salado phenomenon. The local population and the influx of people from surrounding areas brought with them various decorative and technological traditions. In this study, ethnographic examples of decorative traditions are compared to the applications and paints present on various prehistoric ceramics that either predated or were contemporaneous with Salado polychrome. Similarities in decorative traditions indicate the directionality through which technological knowledge and cultural groups came into the Tonto Basin.

Movements of populations from the northern Southwest to central Arizona influenced the local culture of this area, which had previous strong ties to the Hohokam region. Carlson (1970:99) notes that major changes and replacements in ceramic wares coincide with major cultural discontinuities across much of the Southwest. By late Pueblo III times (A.D. 1175) polychrome and black-on-red ceramics were increasingly replacing Black-on-white pottery. The abandonment of the Mesa Verde area in AD 1275-1300 and northern Arizona produced a mixing of populations and ceramic traditions in southern locations that resulted in the Pueblo IV traditions (Carlson 1970:105).

This discussion revolves around comparison of two of the largest platform mound communities in the Tonto Basin that were excavated as part of the Roosevelt Platform Mound Study (Rice 1990) (Figure 3). Results of these comparisons are used to assess the influence of diverse ceramic technological traditions on the Salado polychrome produced and recovered from these large site complexes. These multi-site settlements were inhabited contemporaneously during the late Gila phase, A.D. 1325 - 1450. Salado polychrome was the dominant decorated type at this time and was produced in the Tonto Basin as well as other communities to the east and south. In this study, counts of ceramics are totaled for the Cline Terrace Mound (U:4:33/132) and for the surrounding Cline Mesa sites, a set of residential villages surrounding the platform mound located on terraces above Tonto Creek at the northwest end of the Tonto Basin. These counts are compared to those from the Schoolhouse Point Mound (U:8:24/13a) and from the surrounding Schoolhouse Mesa sites located at the eastern end of the basin along the Salt River. Totals for the Livingston sites, which include two early Classic period platform mounds, are also included. These sites are located east of Schoolhouse Point Mound and the Schoolhouse Mesa sites on the east side of Pinto Wash (Figure 3).


Prehistoric ceramics of the American Southwest exhibit a great variety in the technology and pigments used for decoration. The three colors used on Salado polychrome, red, black, and white, may be obtained in a number of ways. These paints are matte pigments, not glazes, and must adhere to the vessel surface and retain their color after the firing process (Shepard 1976:33). Surface color of ceramic vessels is the result of firing atmosphere and the intensity of the color is dependent on the amount of iron in the clay if an oxidizing atmosphere is used.

Red paint is made from a thin hematite rich wash, or slip that is applied to the surface and must be fired in an oxidizing atmosphere to retain its color. Red-slipped pottery was made in central Arizona for several hundred years prior to the production of Salado polychrome. Red-slipped exteriors and black-smudged interiors were the primary form of decorated ceramics in the central highlands and were used on Tonto Red, Gila Red, Salt Red, and Salado Red, the latter an obliterated corrugated ware. However, the red slip on the Salado polychrome is more of a hematite wash and less of a clay-based slip. The red color on the polychrome may have been applied with a plant juice binder to improve adherence to the vessel surface.

White paint is obtained from very pure clay like kaolin, that is free from iron (Colton 1953:18). The white slip retains its white color when fired in an oxidizing atmosphere. If iron were present, the clay would turn buff to red; but under reducing conditions, it would turn grey. The white slips used on Salado polychrome are variable. Many of the early Pinto polychrome have a smooth, white slip that is evenly polished and lustrous. The later Gila and Tonto polychrome ceramics have a matte white slip that does not bond well with the ceramic paste. This white slip, which is light to cream colored, tends to crack and craze. These characteristics indicate that the shrinkage of the white slip is much greater than that of the clay paste to which it was applied.

Black paint applied to the polychrome has the most variation in the materials and the technology involved in its application and firing is the most complex. Black paint was made from carbon, minerals, or a combination of the two (carbon/mineral). Organic black paint, or carbon paint, may be obtained from a variety of plant sources. Inorganic paint, or mineral paint, can be obtained from iron or manganese paint (Colton 1953:19-20; Hawley 1929).

1) Carbon Paint may be obtained from an organic extract or organic material that will char (Shepard 1976:33). The Pueblo Indians made carbon paint from boiling down tansy mustard or Rocky Mountain beeweed, decanting the liquid, and then boiling down the solution to a gummy mass (Colton 1953:20). Carbon paint was obtained by charring organic matter before or during firing (Colton and Hargrave 1937:7).

Shepard (1936:416-417) found that the preservation of carbon paint in an oxidizing atmosphere is because of its adsorption into the clay (Colton 1953:20). Clays that hold carbon paint well require a high percentage of water to the plastic stage and have correspondingly high shrinkage (Shepard 1976:34). The clay plates shrink together on drying and protect the paint film. If applied too thickly, the carbon paint won't penetrate and will be burned out. If applied half strength, the carbon paint will produce a lighter gray, but will have a rich color when a second coat is applied.

The temperature, duration of firing, and firing atmosphere are crucial (Shepard 1976:35) to the success and preservation of carbon paint. There is some oxygen in all firing to enable fuel combustion, so adsorptive clays are a necessity to retain carbon paint color through the firing process. White clay slips, such as those used on Salado polychrome are very adsorptive.

2) Mineral Paint can be made from iron, manganese, or a combination of the minerals. Colton and Hargrave (1937:7) list hematite as a source of iron, pyrolucite as a source of manganese, kaolin as a source of aluminum, galanite as a source of lead, and copper in various forms. Iron oxide is prepared by grinding to a fine texture, applying the paint to the surface, and polishing before firing. Iron oxide becomes permanent after firing through sintering and reaction with impurities in the mixture (Shepard 1976:32). Iron oxide turns red when fired in an oxidizing atmosphere. Black iron oxide paint may be obtained by using hematite and preventing it from oxidizing, or by firing hematite paint in a reducing atmosphere (Shepard 1976:39). Manganese paints generally do not contain sufficient fluxing material to vitrify or sinter (Shepard 1976:42), even though polishing compacts the powder.

3) Carbon/mineral paint was obtained when a finely-ground mineral was added to an organic mixture and cooked into it. Colton (1953:20) notes that an organic base as a vehicle for mineral paint serves to make it flow more easily, temporarily binds it to the vessel surface, and also acts as a reducing agent.

4) Black Paint on a Red Surface. Under general oxidizing conditions, it is not possible to obtain a black paint on a red, buff, or orange surface. An organic or carbon paint would burn off and one with an iron base would turn red or buff. In these instances, potters used finely-ground manganese ores that will remain black in an oxidizing atmosphere (Colton 1953:21, 26).

A second solution to obtaining black paint on a red surface involves the application of organic paint as a post-firing treatment, followed by a second, low-temperature and short-duration firing. In this instance, carbon paint is applied after firing (Shepard 1976:35) and reheated enough to char the paint, or the carbon paint is applied when it is still hot from the fire. Showlow Black-on-red has a black design in organic paint applied to red surface as post firing treatment, which is similar to the decorative technique used in Maricopa pottery decoration (Colton 1953:21, 26).


All prehistoric pottery in the U.S. Southwest was hand built with a variety of techniques; the potter's wheel was not introduced until after Spanish contact. Most groups made quantities of undecorated smooth-finished or corrugated vessels that were used for a variety of storage and food preparation tasks (Simon and Burton 1992); decorated ceramics typically comprised less than 25% of the total ceramics. The pottery was fired in the open, or in a shallow pit, but formalized kilns were rare.

Among the desert people of the Hohokam and Sinagua areas, most pottery was made by the paddle-and-anvil technique (Harwell and Kelly 1983:80, Figures 7 and 8). Anvils for pottery making were made of stone, or from clay that had been formed and fired. Paddles were made of wood, but unfortunately do not preserve well in most archaeological sites. Smooth pebbles were used for polishing stones.

Among the Maricopa, Yuman-speaking groups located in the Salt/Gila River Basin, the clay was ground to pulverize it, the clay was moistened and allowed to cure for a few days, then it was mixed with mineral temper (Harwell and Kelly 1983:78-79, Figures 5 and 6). A lump of clay was paddled over the exterior of a mold pot to form the base. The upper portion of the vessel was formed with a series of wide coils that were thinned with the paddle-and-anvil, finally the vessel was polished. Firing was accomplished by piling fuel wood around the base of the vessels and sheltering the pots from air drafts. A second firing at a lower temperature was done after mesquite sap (carbon paint) was applied for designs.

Among the Yuma (Rogers 1936:6-12) located along the Colorado River on the present day border between California and Arizona, clay was crushed and finely ground, then moistened and allowed to age. The base was formed by pressing and paddling a lump of clay over the exterior base of a vessel or basket that has been rubbed with ash. The first coil is applied to the base and each successive coil is a unique unit. The paddle-and-anvil technique is accomplished by using a smooth river cobble, a small bowl, a mano, a small basket, or sometimes a fired clay anvil against the interior of the vessel while a wooden paddle is beat against the exterior to thin and draw up the vessel walls. Red ochre is ground and mixed with water that has had a piece of baked agave soaked in it for a day as a fixative. This addition helps set the pigment (carbon/mineral paint) during firing (Rogers 1936:12). Vessels are first warmed and dried around a brush fire in preparation for the final firing.

Among the Hopi of the Colorado Plateau, pottery is made with the coil-and-scrape method (Colton 1953:13). Many thin coils are used to form the pot. The sides are scraped with a piece of gourd to compress and thin the walls. The pottery is sanded with a piece of sandstone to smooth the surface. The exterior is then slipped, polished, and decorated. The colors used in historic Hopi pottery include white, red brown, and brownish black. The white paint is a pure clay free of iron. The black paint is made from finely-ground hematite and boiled down tansy mustard, cooked until it is almost dry (carbon/mineral paint). The red-brown paint is derived from yellow limonite which is ground in water. It turns red or brown in firing. The paint brush is formed from a piece of yucca that has been cut to width and chewed on the end to make bristles. Vessels are warmed around a fire to drive off the remaining moisture, and then placed in the fire. Fuel is piled around the vessels and allowed to burn down.


The undecorated ceramics of Classic period sites in the Tonto Basin are made by paddle-and-anvil technology. Decorated wares, including most white ware, red ware, and polychrome, are made by the coil-and-scrape technique. Corrugated and obliterated corrugated ceramics were made as well. Salado polychrome, the most distinctive and abundant decorated pottery of the late Classic period, was made with a combination of techniques, but most often with an emphasis on coil-and-scrape. Vessel sizes vary from small bowls and jars, to very large bowls and jars, as well as occasional human or bird effigy figures.

A geological background study was undertaken as part of the Roosevelt Platform Mound Study to assess local and nonlocal production of ceramics recovered from the platform mound communities (Simon and Redman 1990; Simon and Burton 1992). Samples were taken of rock formations, stream sediments, and clays near the sites and in the various drainages. These items were studied as part of reference collection to aid determination of locations of manufacture. The samples were studied using complementary mineralogical and chemical characterization techniques. Petrographic thin-sections were prepared of the rock samples and stream sediments. These were examined under transmitted light and cross-polar light to identify minerals and rock fragments. A chemical analysis using ICP-MS was conducted (Burton and Simon 1993) to characterize the clay samples. Petrography and ICP-MS were completed for a number of prehistoric pottery samples. The results of these analyses were compared to those for the study area reference samples to assess local manufacture of the various ceramic classes.

There are several cases of resource specialization in the production of ceramics at various sites in the Tonto Basin. These are instances when certain ceramic classes and vessel forms were produced in quantity from specific clay recipes, i.e., combinations of clay and temper (Richardson 1994; Simon and Burton 1992). Results of the mineralogical and chemical study indicate that the Salado polychrome ceramics have a rather distinctive composition that is likely the product of mixing a number of clays. To some degree, some samples of this ware overlap with the compositions of some of the other major wares. Most black-on-white pottery (white wares) were from clays derived from sedimentary, marine deposits such as those of the Colorado Plateau. Hohokam ceramics from the Sonoran desert were made of clays derived from a number of alluvial contexts that contain mixed sediments. The ceramics from the Tonto Basin, including Salado polychrome, are made of clays weathered from granite, or diabase, or a combination of these. Some volcanic clays are present as well. Ceramics from the Sierra Ancha, bordering the Tonto Basin, are made from diabase derived clays.


Aside from the actual composition of the ceramic pastes (i.e., the mixture of clay and tempering material), the traditions and technologies that were used to produce decorative finishes on the surfaces of pots are considered (Table 1). There are cultural influences derived from many directions on the diverse ceramic assemblages of Salado sites in the Tonto Basin. Many different white wares, including Tusayan, Little Colorado, and Cibola White Wares, have been recovered in the Salado sites of the Tonto Basin. White Mountain Red Wares are also recovered, particularly from sites on the Salt Arm of the basin. Hohokam decorated wares are also recovered, but these are primarily red-on-buff ceramics and the technology involved in producing these is different from that used in the production of most black-on-white and polychrome pottery. The influences of the black-on-white and red ware technological traditions and the frequencies of these types in the Tonto Basin ceramic collections (Table 2) are described in the following section.


Tusayan White Ware dates from A.D. 1125-1300 (Oppelt 1988:298) and originates to the northwest in the Tusayan- Kayenta region of northern Arizona. This white ware was decorated with carbon paint and fired in a reducing atmosphere (Table 1). None of the examples of Tusayan White Ware recovered from sites in the Tonto Basin contain local temper. These ceramics were manufactured on the Colorado Plateau and are tempered with quartz sands and white angular fragments (Figure 4). The majority of paint used on the surfaces of the pottery is carbon paint (70%). Smaller proportions of samples were painted with carbon/mineral mixtures.

Few Tusayan White Ware ceramics were recovered from the Tonto Basin sites, partially due to their early temporal occurrence compared to the time period of most of the Salado sites. The majority of these were recovered from the Schoolhouse Mesa sites (Table 2), many of which date to the Roosevelt phase of the early Classic period. The majority of these ceramics were decorated with carbon paint, and to a lesser extent with carbon/mineral paint. As with most ceramic wares and types, although there is considerable variation in the technology and material used to produce these vessels, the preference for certain conditions and materials can clearly be seen.


Little Colorado White Ware dates from A.D. 1000-1375 (Oppelt 1988:266) and originated at settlements at the base of the Hopi Buttes (Douglass 1987). These black-on-white ceramics are most often decorated with carbon paint, although carbon/mineral paint is used in some cases, and are fired in a reducing atmosphere (Table 1). The majority of these ceramics recovered from sites in the Tonto Basin were made at their place of origin along the upper Little Colorado River (Figure 5), but there are a few examples with local temper, including granite and diabase. Samples in both temper groups were decorated with carbon paint.

Overall, 50% of the samples are decorated with carbon paint, 40% with carbon/mineral mixture, but only 10% have mineral paint. The majority of Little Colorado White Ware ceramics were recovered from the earlier components of the Schoolhouse Point Mound and the Cline Mesa sites (Table 2). Overall, carbon paint is the most common category, followed by carbon/mineral. Very few samples had mineral paint.


Cibola White Ware (Figure 6) was made from A.D.1225-1325 and was produced in the upper Little Colorado Region on the Colorado Plateau. Cibola White Ware was made with black mineral paint, or a carbon/mineral combination, applied to a light colored paste fired in a reducing atmosphere that had been tempered with sherd or sherd/sand/rock temper (Carlson 1970:97) (Table 1). Sand and white angular fragments were the most common temper materials used for Cibola White Ware (Figure 7). However, there are a few instances where granite and granite/diabase temper were used, indicating that these samples were made with local temper. Overall, there is very little carbon paint (<2%) used on Cibola White Ware. A mixture of carbon and mineral paint accounts for about 15% of the samples. Most are painted with mineral paint, with a few examples of mineral glaze.

When these frequencies are compared by sites (Table 2), the majority of samples from the compound sites, including Cline Mesa, Schoolhouse Mesa, and Livingston, have mineral paint. The ceramics recovered from the mounds, Schoolhouse Point Mound and Cline Terrace Mound, have slightly less mineral paint samples and more carbon/mineral paint samples. Several of the mesa sites are from the early Classic, so these differences in frequencies may indicate a shift to more carbon/mineral paint mixtures in the late Classic.


White Mountain Red Ware was made from A.D. 1000-1500 (Oppelt 1988:302). It was produced at locations in the White Mountains located to the northeast and east and into New Mexico. The characteristics of White Mountain Red Wares, with the exception of the red slip, were already present in the Cibola Black-on-white technology (Carlson 1970:97). The paste of these vessels is more orange than that of the black-on-white ceramics which may be due to a change in firing. The main innovation of the orange-red slip used on White Mountain Red Wares (Figure 8). The red slip was made from yellow limonite which changed to a red ferric oxide during heated dehydration (Shepard 1956:177; Carlson 1970:97). In the earlier ceramics (Carlson 1970:103), the color was more red and the white outline was applied after the black paint. In the later ceramics, the color is more orange and the white paint was applied before the black. The peak period of production of White Mountain Red Wares was between A.D. 1300-1400.

Among White Mountain Red Wares recovered from sites in the Tonto Basin (Figure 9), most of the temper in these ceramics is white angular fragments and is indicative of manufacture in the mountains and on the Colorado Plateau. However, a few pieces have granite or granite/diabase temper indicating use of local materials in their production. The majority of the samples are tempered with mineral paint and mineral glaze, but less than 5% of the samples have carbon paint, and only 10% have carbon and mineral paint.

The proportions of White Mountain Red Ware with mineral and mineral/glaze paint are not evenly distributed among the Tonto Basin sites (Table 2). The Schoolhouse Point Mound has the highest proportion of mineral glaze. Schoolhouse Mesa and the Livingston sites have the least glaze, but these areas also include several early Classic sites so the differences may be temporal, indicating that glazed White Mountain Red Ware was more available in the late Classic. Carbon/mineral and carbon paint are present in minor frequencies. White Mountain Red Ware has the most variation in the paint material and technology of all the wares compared (Table 2; Figure 9).


Salado polychrome was first produced around A.D. 1275 as Pinto polychrome and Pinto Black-on-red. In the A.D. 1300's, Gila polychrome, Gila Black-on-red, and Tonto Polychrome were produced and persisted into the mid-A.D. 1400's (Dittert and Plog 1980). Salado polychrome ceramics use white, black, and red paint, but the arrangement of these colors distinguishes these wares from others. Haury (1945:69,71-72) noted the order of paint application on Salado polychrome as the application of the white design field, the black painted design, and then filling of the remainder with red. In her regional study of Salado polychrome, Crown (1994:44-45) confirmed these findings with 89% of the vessels studied following that order, but in a few remaining cases the red was applied first.

The differences in the Salado polychrome types are based largely on design. Pinto designs lack a framing line, or life-line at the rim. Pinto Black-on-red and Pinto Polychrome started at the same time as Pinedale Black-on-red and Pinedale Polychrome in the White Mountain Red Ware tradition (Carlson 1970:108). The stylistic shift from Pinto to Gila was a shift to a center focus in the designs on bowl interiors (Carlson 1970:108).

Gila and Tonto polychrome designs incorporate one or more framing lines and life-lines into the layout. Pinto and Gila designs (Figure 10) are composed of a white design field on bowl interiors with painted black designs. The exteriors of the bowls are painted with red slip. Tonto designs (Figure 11) have white areas painted as design fields with black paint within these. Red is painted to fill open areas within the design layout. Pinto occurs only as bowls, Gila is usually bowls, but some small jars, Tonto may be either bowls or jars, and large or small in size.

Among the Tonto Basin sites, the majority of Salado Polychrome ceramics were recovered from the platform mounds and were locally produced in the Tonto Basin. There are three major Tonto Basin temper groups: granite, granite/diabase, and diabase (Figure 12). A few ceramics were recovered that have pastes and temper similar to white wares, but these are usually restricted to Pinto, and a few Gila polychrome. Petrographic evidence indicates that there was exchange across the basin. There is less variation in later Gila and Tonto polychrome than in the earlier Pinto polychrome.

The platform mounds have the most Salado polychrome ceramics (Table 2). Over 95% of samples of Salado Polychrome have carbon paint. This is a higher percentage than that noted in Crown’s (1994:44) regional comparison (69%), indicating that carbon paint was preferred by the local producers. The organic paint on Salado polychrome could have been made with a number of plants including beeweed or desert plants such as mesquite. There is very little carbon/mineral or mineral paint used on these ceramics. No mineral glaze examples were present among the Salado Polychrome samples. There is little variation in paint on Salado polychrome at sites across the Tonto Basin. The Livingston area, which had some of the earliest sites, has the most variation in paint. This pattern indicates that the production of Salado polychrome in the Tonto Basin became quite standardized in the late Classic period.


Salado polychrome, the distinctive white, black, and red decorated ware of the Classic period, developed out of this amalgamation of pottery making and decorating traditions. Pinto polychrome appeared after A.D. 1275, and the production of black-on-white pottery decreased after A.D. 1300, as polychrome pottery became popular. The decorative technology of Salado polychrome includes use of a white design field on which a black carbon paint is applied. The white slip is a highly adsorptive white clay that protects the carbon during the oxidation firing. In most cases, the black carbon doesn't touch the red slip, it is isolated by the white field. The red is usually a thin hematite wash which is applied to open areas surrounding the white design field.

In this study, comparisons were made among decorated ceramics, the materials used to make them, and the technological traditions by which they were made, in order to learn about the prehistoric cultural influences that affected the development of Salado polychrome ceramics in the Tonto Basin of central Arizona.

Compositional analysis of the paste (clay and temper) was used to assess local versus nonlocal production of several ceramic wares. Most decorated wares, including Tusayan, Little Colorado, and Cibola White Wares and White Mountain Red Ware, were made on the Colorado Plateau or in the White Mountains. However, a few of each were made with temper from the Tonto Basin, indicating that there was experimentation with local materials by either local potters, or migrant potters who had moved to the area. Compositional analysis of Salado polychrome indicates that the majority of these ceramics were produced within the Tonto Basin with locally available materials. There are a few cases of Salado polychrome that were made on the Colorado Plateau or in the White Mountains.

Although black-on-white pottery was made in a number of locations, mineral paint was favored in the Cibola, Chaco, and Rio Grande areas, but organic paint was used farther to the west in the Tusayan and Little Colorado areas (Crown 1994:39). In later times organic paint was also used in the eastern areas. The ceramic traditions represented by Tusayan White Ware and Little Colorado White Ware, that derive from areas to the north and northwest of the Tonto Basin, have a common emphasis on carbon paints. There is more variation in the temper and the paint of Little Colorado White Ware than in Tusayan White Ware. However, this may be a product of the higher frequencies of Little Colorado White Ware recovered from excavations in Tonto Basin.

In contrast, Cibola White Ware and White Mountain Red Ware make only slight use of carbon and carbon/mineral paint. Most of the ceramics in these wares are either mineral or mineral glaze paints. These traditions of decorating ceramics derive from areas to the northeast and east of the Tonto Basin. White Mountain Red Ware has more paint variation within each temper category than Cibola White Ware. There are more examples of mineral glaze ceramics among White Mountain Red Ware than in Cibola White Ware.

Ethnographic information also documents the use of carbon paint, applied as a post-firing treatment and finished in a second low-temperature firing, among the Maricopa and other desert Yuman-speakers. Given the long period of contact between the prehistoric Hohokam and the people of Tonto Basin, it is likely that the use of carbon paint in this application was known as well.

The choice of paint, application, and firing may be somewhat mitigated by availability of materials. However, the spread of the carbon paint usage into eastern areas, previously dominated by mineral paint usage, at the end of the Classic indicates that technological traditions were equally important. Gila and Tonto Polychrome have an artistry that separates them from Cibola White Ware and White Mountain Red Ware ceramic traditions. Salado polychrome designs are painted with bold strokes rather than the calculated outline and fill method. Based on the compositional study, it is apparent that populations of the platform mound communities in the Tonto Basin were influenced by the ceramic technological traditions of the Colorado Plateau to the north and mountains to the east, in addition to longstanding exchange and interaction with the desert people of the Hohokam culture to the south.

The direction of influence on Salado Polychrome is primarily from the north and northwest rather than from the northeast and east. Compared to painting traditions of intrusive decorated ceramics, Tusayan and Little Colorado White Ware have the most in common with Salado polychrome with their emphasis on carbon paint. The use of carbon paint on red-slipped ceramics among desert people as well indicates that the boundary between use of mineral paint versus carbon paint may have been a question of east and west influences, rather than plateau versus desert cultural influences.