Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Potomac Creek Ceramics

This type of pottery was first described by W.H. Holmes in 1903 named after the type site in Stafford County Virginia (ESAF, vol.10, 1982). The wares have since been expanded and refined over the years (Stephenson et al. 1963). The vessels are of a pottery group manufactured by the coiling technique with malleated surfaces. The vessels are small to large, with rounded bases. The clay is tempered with crushed quartz with or without medium sand grains. The vessels are made with hard compact clay and are usually thin. There are two types of Potomac Creek pottery: Cord Impressed in which the surface is cord marked using a wrapped stick or paddle and the Plain type which are more smooth either without cord marking or smoothed over after cord marking. This type of pottery dates to the Late Woodland period (800AD-1600AD) and has been found predominately, but not exclusively, in northwestern Virginia and throughout the lower Potomac drainage.

We know in Port Tobacco that there are three possible prehistoric sites, one in Compton field south of the old Episcopal Church, one in the Jamison field, and one in front of Stagg Hall. The majority of the prehistoric ceramics we have recovered were excavated in Compton field including all of the Potomac Creek sherds.

Above left is an example of the Potomac Creek Cord Impressed ceramic found at Port Tobacco.
Size: 2.6cm x 2.6cm (one inch by one inch)
Description: cord impressed rim with diagonol hatching either made with cord wrapped stick or paddle. Blackened (reduced) interior and reddened (oxidized) exterior, indicating that the pot was fired upside down.
- Peter


Ken said...

It never ceases to amaze me what a huge amount of information can be gleaned from fragments of pottery. Think of how much we could learn if we had the benefit of the material that bio-degraded over the Millennia. Unfortunately, As future scientists review our discarded items, they will either thank us for the wealth of material to study, or look at us with disgust at what we left behind that will never disappear.

Jim said...

William Rathje, then of the University of Arizona, made his reputation studying trash recovered from garbage pails left out on the curb and from deep testing in landfills. He learned quite a bit about the difference between what we say we use and throw away, and what we actually use and throw away. He also recovered remarkably well-preserved newspapers that were discarded decades earlier, but preserved well in the anaerobic environment. There is such thing as an embarrassment of riches.