Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Rainy Day Update

Hey folks,
Another rainy fall day has confined us to the lab, though there certainly is plenty to do here (report writing, report writing...and more report writing). So, while I could regale you with tales of creating excel tables, analyzing soil profiles, and deciphering field notes from this past field session, I will not--you can thank me later. Instead, I figured I would go ahead and let you all know about Anne's and my visit to the Maryland Historical Trust last week.

The purpose of this journey to Crownsville was to meet with Maureen Kavanagh, Dennis Curry, and Charlie Hall to discuss the aboriginal pottery and projectile points found at Port Tobacco. Now, I know I have inundated our readers with blogs about these artifacts, so I promise I will be brief. After everyone had a good look at the artifacts and passed around several typologies, we were able to identify most of the points (though the broken points still remain a challenge). As for the aboriginal pottery, my goal was to confirm my identification of the different ware types, and inquire about a few sherds that gave me a bit of difficulty. Here are two of the highlights.

First off, this particular rim sherd of the Moyaone type from Stratum 2 of Unit 54 (to the right) stood out because of the added lip and interesting coloration. It is likely that the reddish hue and dark smudge are just a result of the firing process. As for the added lip, this piqued everyone's interest because of its resemblance to European ceramics. This stimulated much discussion about the changing characteristics of aboriginal wares post-contact, and would support the argument that aboriginal groups were living in or near Port Tobacco at the time of contact. This suggestion has also been supported by the discovery of trade beads during our excavations.

The second interesting discussion focused on several sherds of aboriginal pottery that I have been having difficulty identifying. Almost everything about these sherds would lead me to label them as Moyaone, including the micacious clay, compact paste, and soft to silty texture, but the presence of bits of oyster shell did not fit the description (see images to the left). Initially I figured these stray shell bits were just accidental inclusions. However, as I continued to sort through the sherds I began to find more and more of them, suggesting that these shells may have been intentionally used as temper. It is possible that these sherds are more similar to the Yeocomico type, though even then the micacious clay makes them stand out. For now these sherds will continue to remain a bit of a mystery, but serve as an important reminder that identifying aboriginal ceramics is not as simple as checking off characteristics--sometimes a sherd will have the characteristics of multiple types, and thus is best described rather than labeled with a particular name. Nevertheless, it is also crucial to identify some sherds for certain as a whole mess of indeterminate sherds can make it quite difficult to interpret a site.

Now I promise I will refrain from any more posts about the trials and tribulations of identifying aboriginal pottery. You all should be experts by now...or just hopeful that we will be back to reporting on our progress in the field rather than in the lab!

I hope to see you all down at Port Tobacco on Thursday!


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