Monday, November 3, 2008


As I noted in Saturday's blog, about half of the aboriginal pottery sherds recovered last June are of the Moyaone type (pronounced Moy- [as in boy] - ohn [as in clone]). Robert Stephenson defined Moyaone as a type in the early 1960s based on material recovered by Alice Ferguson from the Accokeek Creek site in the 1930s and 1940s. He described it as a compact, smooth paste tempered with very fine sand and mica and few crushed quartz or larger sand grain inclusions, with smoothed interior and exterior surfaces. The mica lends a glittering quality to both surfaces (see sherd on right in figure below).

Potomac Creek Cord-Impressed (left) and Moyaone Plain (right) pottery sherds.

We offer the following details on the Moyaone pottery recovered from Port Tobacco, the bulk of which came from the seven excavation units comprising the so-called aboriginal locus. Very fine sand grains (<0.5 mm) comprise approximately 10% of the clay. Four sherds had what appear to be fortuitous shell inclusions and five had bits of crushed quartz in excess of 1 mm in length. Sherd thicknesses, excluding rim and base sherds, range from 3 mm to 7.5 mm, averaging 5.5 mm. Coil breaks are clearly manifested on 32 of the 165 sherds. The exterior surfaces are typically reddened and the interiors are blackened (112 of 146 body sherds retaining both surfaces), a byproduct of firing pots upside down. Another 29 were reddened, or oxidized, on both sides and five were fired in a reducing (oxygen poor) environment resulting in completely blackened surfaces.

Cord impressions are few, largely because the potters smoothed both interior and exterior surfaces. Seven body sherds had cord impressions that were sufficiently clear to identify as to allow us to identify the cords as z-twist (as opposed to s-twist, the other pattern resulting from the direction in which the fibers were twisted in making the cord from vegetable fibers). Of the nine rim sherds recovered, six had cord impressions, all of the z-twist variety. No evidence of s-twist cords was noted on any of the sherds.

Moyaone pottery dates to the latter part of the Late Woodland period, roughly AD 1300 to 1650. This date range corresponds with the trade beads recovered from Port Tobacco, indicating aboriginal occupation at the time of European invasion.

Eighteen Moyaone sherds, along with one Early Woodland Accokeek sherd and three Late Woodland Townsend sherds, were recovered from Stratum 3 in Unit 7 (see below). This buried topsoil horizon appears throughout the aboriginal locus and it contains deposits dating to the aboriginal and early European occupations of Port Tobacco. We expect to find and learn marvellous things as we expand the excavations in this area.

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