Archaeologist James B. Griffin, director of the Museum from 1946 to 1975, is best known for his research in the eastern United States. In the 1940s, however, he made several trips to Mexico, where he collaborated with archaeologist Alfonso Caso to visit and make collections from several sites. They collected these ceramics from a site they referred to as Ahuitzotla. This was most likely Santiago Ahuitzotla, a large site in the northwest quadrant of the Valley of Mexico with a long history of archaeological research and digging by local residents. These sherds come from small bowls, which often sat on tripod feet. To make the decorations, the artist carved away the polished surface of a fired or leather hard unfired vessel to expose the paste underneath, a technique known as sgraffito (Italian, for “to scratch”). Traces of red slip are visible in the exposed areas on the sherds in the center and right. These small fragments only hint at the elaborate figurative designs on these widely traded ceramic vessel forms.
In honor of the University of Michigan’s 2017 bicentennial, we are celebrating the remarkable archaeological and ethnographic collections and rich legacy of research and teaching at the Museum of Anthropological Archaeology by posting one entry a day for 200 days. The entries will highlight objects from the collections, museum personalities, and UMMAA expeditions. The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology is also posting each day for 200 days on Twitter and Facebook (follow along at #KMA200). After the last post, an exhibition on two centuries of archaeology at U-M opens at the Kelsey. Visit the exhibit—a joint project of the UMMAA and the Kelsey—from October 18, 2017 to May 27, 2018.