Friday

Working with Mud (mud through time)

Mud, wet clay, plaster, daub, whatever you call the material it has been in use for thousands of years.  Humans have created all sorts of things with mud over time from utensils to housing.  Considering the utility of the material, mud/clay is a just not for making mud pies.

The cultural resource inventory at the Painted Pony Resort identified a small prehistoric hamlet on the property and in an attempt to date and identify the residents, a single room was cleared of rock in hopes of identifying the floor and finding a piece of diagnostic pottery (more mud).  While no diagnostic pottery was found evidence of stucco plastering was recovered from the collapsed walls.  The masonry walls of each room were covered in an early form of stucco, presumably to keep out the wind.  While other Mogollon cultural groups built solely with adobe (mud), the Mimbres built with stone which was skinned with locally obtained clay.  The source of the clay was identified with the discovery of large modified flakes in several pits/arroyos which served as digging tools to excavate clay for various uses in the hamlet, plastering walls and pottery.  The 2 fragments of stucco show that small rocks were added to the mix before applying to the masonry walls. 

mimbres stucco tool
Clay pit with a prehistoric digging tool.

mud adobe with rock fill
Daub (left) and adobe fragment from a wall.

This clay source was also tested for its suitability for pottery by creating a crude vessel which was then fired in a fire pit kiln at the Painted Pony Resort.  Not being a potter the esthetic results were less than ideal, but the coil and scape method used by potters proved suitable for making something that resembled an ashtray created by a 4 yr old.  Firing the piece of plainware resulted in a well hardened piece with a nice ring when tapped and one that did not melt in the rain like earlier attempts.

first pottery attempt
First attempt at firing pottery.

Skipping forward in time about 800 years from the prehistoric uses of mud a more modern example of stucco work involves the rustic cabin at PPR.  After installing the split heating/air conditioning units in the rustic cabin, the exposed piping required covers.  Decorative pilasters were built and attached to the walls which were then covered with stucco.  Modern stucco differs from the early stucco material used on the rooms of the hamlet and is a processed material instead of locally obtained clay, but the process of mudding the exterior of a structure has not changed.

Modern stucco pilaster on the Rustic Cabin at PPR.
 So, across a time span of approximately 800 years things have not changed, we are still playing in the mud.

2 comments:

  1. Guess one is never to young or to old to play in mud. Many homes in New Mexico are made of what you call mud.

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  2. Quite right. It just stuck me as interesting after finding the old stucco in the hamlet that how over time the same building techniques are still popular. All the rock houses in Rodeo are another example.

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