Dismal River Ceramics in Colorado

Sarah Trabert published an article in the most recent issue of Southwestern Lore (volume 81, no. 4) titled “An Assessment of Dismal River Ceramics in Colorado.”

A copy of the article can be found here: Trabert 2015


Eastern Colorado was an important area for the movement of people and goods for centuries prior to European colonization. One group to occupy the area in the Protohistoric period is known as the Dismal River archaeological complex. Dismal River people occupied not only parts of eastern Colorado, but also the Central High Plains of Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas. The ceramics from 22 Colorado Dismal River sites were recently reanalyzed as part of a larger project aimed at better understanding their identity, foodways, and technology. Although some previous researchers have had difficulty identifying and categorizing Dismal River ceramics, new comparisons to ceramics recovered from eastern sites (Nebraska and Kansas) show that existing ceramic type classifications, while general, may successfully be applied to Colorado collections. Dismal River groups living in Colorado likely used and discarded fewer vessels than their eastern counterparts; however, they also maintained a more exacting set of manufacturing guidelines as vessels here exhibit far less variation than seen in other Dismal River assemblages.