Dating to the Early Formative period, Vaquerías pottery is the earliest polychrome ceramic in the Argentine Northwest. Questions about its provenance, use and circulation persist, however. To address these, the authors employ, for the first time, an integrated methodology comprising petrographic, morphological, iconographic and contextual analyses of ceramic samples from three regions of north-western Argentina. The results suggest five distinct modes of manufacture of Vaquerías ceramics, the non-centralisation of their production, their wide geographic distribution and their use in a variety of functional contexts. The methodology is applicable elsewhere and illustrates the potential of this approach over traditional stylistic-morphological studies.