DAACS staff has developed a detailed coding system for describing color. The goal of this system is to provide a more objective method of describing color by matching artifact colors to a Munsell code in either The Munsell Book of Color, The Glossy Collection or the Munsell Soil Color Charts. This is an attempt to move away from more subjective color categories assigned by individual catalogers who may have very different perceptions of color.

DAACS provides four pieces of color data for each artifact. These data range from highly specific color classifications to basic color groups.

  1. Color Description: This field contains the name given to a range of Munsell colors (e.g. Red, Muted Light) or the code for a single Munsell color (e.g. 10YR 8/3).
  2. Munsell Color Code: This field contains the actual Munsell codes that describe the object. This can be either a range of color codes (2.5R9/2, 2.5R7/7, 5R8/6, 5R7/2, 7.5R8/4) or a single color code (2.5Y 8/3).
  3. Basic Color Group: This field contains common English color names associated with Munsell color ranges (e.g. Red). For individually coded terms derived from the Munsell Soil Color Charts, it contains the soil color description provided by Munsell (e.g. Very Pale Brown). For individually coded terms derived from the Munsell Glossy Collection, it simply contains the Munsell code.
  4. Color Type: This field tells you which color-coding system was used for the observation in question: DAACS-MCRS, Individual Glossy, or Munsell Soil Color Chart. Each type is described below.

This table provides an example of how color is returned in a Related Data Format.

Color Description Munsell Color Codes Basic Color Group Color Type
Red, Muted Light 2.5R9/2, 2.5R7/7, 5R8/6, 5R7/2, 7.5R8/4, 10R8/6, 10R7/6 Pink DAACS MCRS
Red, Muted Medium 2.5R6/2, 2.5R4/6, 5R6/6, 5R5/4, 5R4/2, 7.5R5/2, 7.5R5/6 Red DAACS MCRS
Red, Muted Dark 2.5R3/2, 2.5R2/6, 5R2/2, 7.5R3/4, 7.5R3/6, 10R2/6 Brown DAACS MCRS
10YR 8/3 10YR 8/3 Very Pale Brown Munsell Soil
5G 9/1 5G 9/1 5G 9/1 Individual Glossy

Color Coding for Artifacts in DAACS

DAACS protocols for classifying and recording color vary across artifact classes. There are five groups of protocols in use.

  1. Applied color on glazed ceramic vessels, glazed tobacco pipes, glass vessels, beads, buttons, and the category “all other artifacts” are described using the DAACS MCRS color types.
  2. Interior and exterior color of unglazed refined ceramic vessels such as Black Basalt and Jasper Ware are described using DAACS MCRS color types.
  3. Glaze colors on refined earthenwares and porcelains are described using Individual Glossy color types.
  4. Interior and exterior color of unglazed coarse ceramic vessels such as Colonoware and Native American ceramics are described using Munsell Soil Color Charts.
  5. The basic color of beads and non-metal buttons are described using DAACS MCRS color types.

All five protocols are motivated by the desire to minimize uncontrolled variation in color naming conventions. They are all based on Munsell color codes.

DAACS Munsell Color Range System (DAACS-MCRS)

The DAACS-MCRS is an abbreviated version of The Munsell Book of Color, The Glossy Collection. The DAACS-MCRS is used to describe applied color on glazed ceramic vessels, glazed tobacco pipes, glass vessels, beads, buttons, and the category “all other artifacts.” It is also used to describe the color of bisque-bodied refined ceramic wares and the basic color of beads and non-metal buttons.

In its entirety, The Munsell Book of Color, The Glossy Collection contains nearly 1600 color chips. The sheer number of colors made using the complete collection unwieldy. In order to make the MCRS manageable, DAACS staff assigned individual Munsell color codes to more encompassing groups, using larger divisions of the three Munsell color dimensions: Hue, Chroma, and Value. The color space was first divided according to hue (Red, Yellow-Red, Green, Blue-Green, Blue, Purple-Blue, Purple, etc.). Within each hue, colors with a chroma of 6 or lower were assigned to the Muted category (e.g. Muted Green) while those with a chroma of 7 or higher were assigned to the Intense category (e.g. Intense Green). The color space was further divided into Light, Medium, and Dark categories to account for color value. Light colors are those with a value of 7 and higher. Medium colors have a value of 4, 5, or 6. Dark colors have a value of 3 and lower.

DAACS staff took a 25% sample of chips from each hue-value-chroma group, thereby creating a smaller and more accessible version of The Munsell Book of Color, The Glossy Collection. The result is 64 color groups or MCRS Classes. The chart below provides examples of how individual Munsell color codes map onto MCRS Classes:

Munsell Color Code Hue Value Chroma DAACS MCRS
2.5Y 9/4 Y=Yellow 9 4 Yellow, Muted Light
2.5G 3/8 G=Green 3 8 Green, Intense Dark
2.5RP6/12 RP=Red-Purple 6 12 Red-Purple, Intense Medium
2.5PB 3/4 PB=Purple-Blue 3 4 Purple-Blue, Muted Dark

DAACS Basic Color Groups

For some analytical purposes, the 64 MCRS Classes have proven unwieldy. To circumvent this, DAACS assigned MCRS Classes to larger Basic Color Groups with English color names (e.g. Red, Blue, Green). The price of this additional simplification is the reintroduction of subjectivity. Basic Color Groups are modal categorizations based on the color naming intuitions of DAACS staff. Users are warned: Our color categories may be different from yours. The only way to know is to consult The Munsell Book of Color, The Glossy Collection.

Individual Glossy Colors

In addition to the larger DAACS-MCRS groupings, a separate set of Munsell colors from The Glossy Collection are used specifically for measuring gradations in glaze color, not applied decorative color, on refined earthenwares and porcelains. Glaze colors on these wares are coded to the level of individual Munsell codes. This was done because the abridged Munsell color ranges created by the DAACS-MCRS failed to have a group of colors that captured variation within these specific ware types. Glaze-color coding may be particularly useful to researchers interested in measuring the differences between dark and light creamwares and dark and light pearlwares. The color chips used to measure these gradations are identified in the database as an individual Munsell code.

Munsell Soil Colors

DAACS uses individual codes from the Munsell Soil Color Chart to measure variation in the color of the interior and exterior surfaces of unglazed coarse ceramics such as Colonoware, Native American ceramics, the unslipped portion of North Midlands Slipware, and so forth. Interior and exterior colors of glazed ceramics are measured using DAACS-MCRS (see above).