Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast
  • Alternative view 1 of Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast
  • Alternative view 2 of Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast

Early Pottery: Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast

by Rebecca Saunders (Editor), Christopher T. Hays (Editor), Richard A. Weinstein (Contribution by), Anthony L. Ortmann (Contribution by), Kenneth E. Sassaman (Contribution by)

A synthesis of research on earthenware technologies of the Late Archaic Period in the southeastern U.S.

Information on social groups and boundaries, and on interaction between groups, burgeons when pottery appears on the social landscape of the Southeast in the Late Archaic period (ca. 5000-3000 years ago). This volume provides a broad, comparative review


A synthesis of research on earthenware technologies of the Late Archaic Period in the southeastern U.S.

Information on social groups and boundaries, and on interaction between groups, burgeons when pottery appears on the social landscape of the Southeast in the Late Archaic period (ca. 5000-3000 years ago). This volume provides a broad, comparative review of current data from "first potteries" of the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains and in the lower Mississippi River Valley, and it presents research that expands our understanding of how pottery functioned in its earliest manifestations in this region.

Included are discussions of Orange pottery in peninsular Florida, Stallings pottery in Georgia, Elliot's Point fiber-tempered pottery in the Florida panhandle, and the various pottery types found in excavations over the years at the Poverty Point site in northeastern Louisiana. The data and discussions demonstrate that there was much more interaction, and at an earlier date, than is often credited to Late Archaic societies. Indeed, extensive trade in pottery throughout the region occurs as early as 1500 B.C.

These and other findings make this book indispensable to those involved in research into the origin and development of pottery in general and its unique history in the Southeast in particular.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This volume comes at an exciting time, and it greatly helps to generate excitement. Some chapters of Early Pottery offer interesting new data, while others summarize a lifetime of research. New theories are coalesced with earlier ones to provide a fascinating view of the Late Archaic or Gulf Formational landscape."—Ned Jenkins, coauthor of The Tombigbee Watershed in Southeastern Prehistory

"Saunders and Hayes present the issues in an excellent introduction, emphasizing both technological and social functions of the earliest pottery to understand cultural interactions that account for its distribution in time and space from as early as 5000—2500 B.P."
Journal of Anthropological Research

Product Details

University of Alabama Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt


Technology, Function, Style, and Interaction in the Lower Southeast


Copyright © 2004 The University of Alabama Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8173-5127-4

Chapter One


Themes in Early Pottery Research

Rebecca Saunders and Christopher T. Hays

When pottery appeared at the close of the Middle Archaic period (8000-5000 B.P.), the lower Southeast (Figure 1.1) contained a complex social landscape that included small, mobile, hunting and gathering groups as well as semisedentary and possibly transegalitarian groups. These peoples constructed large earthen mound complexes in Louisiana and shell mound complexes in Florida (Russo 1996a; Saunders 1994; Saunders et al. 1994). Despite the apparent limitation of having little but lithics from which to derive models, social information on these groups has expanded in recent years, and it is clear that there were complex interregional ties that affected even those groups with little extraregional trade (e.g., Sassaman 1994, 1995a, this volume). Nevertheless, the introduction of pottery, with its oft-cited plasticity and durability, greatly expands our information on social groups and boundaries and on the interaction between groups in the lower Southeast in the Late Archaic period (5000-3000 B.P.). Indeed, technological and stylistic studies of early pottery in the lower Southeast have uncovered evidence for a great dealof interaction at a variety of scales. The chapters in this volume provide a broad, comparative sample of early pottery and the attendant issues of its appearance and distribution, vis-à-vis interaction, in many Late Archaic cultures in the lower Southeast. Taken together, the chapters provide information on the function, both technological and social, of early pottery, as well as on the temporal and areal extent of Late Archaic interactions.


The areal and temporal focus of this volume is on pottery traditions that developed in the Atlantic and Gulf coastal plains between about 4500 and 2500 radiocarbon years before present (rcybp) (Figure 1 .2). The authors discuss pottery assemblages from sites in an area that extends from the south Atlantic coast to the Lower Mississippi River Valley (LMRV) (Figure 1.3). It is the similarity in surface decoration and vessel forms in the pottery throughout this region-and the interaction that this implies-that makes the areal coverage a cohesive unit. These similarities were noted even as basic cultural chronologies were still being formulated (e.g., Ford 1952), and they were central to Walthall and Jenkins's (1976) formulation of the Gulf Formational stage and the recognition of the Gulf tradition ( Jenkins et al. 1986) in early coastal pottery.

While elsewhere in the East pottery ushers in the Woodland period (by ca. 3000 rcybp), it appears much earlier in the lower Southeast. The earliest dates are from Rabbit Mount, an inland site on the Savannah River (two dates of ca. 4500 B.P. were obtained, which calibrate to over 5000 B.P.; see below), but pottery may actually have developed first along the coast (Sassaman 2002, this volume). After its debut, interaction among groups propelled the spread of pottery relatively quickly throughout the Savannah and St. Johns River valleys.

Curiously, pottery does not move out of the south Atlantic coastal plain for almost a thousand years. When pottery does begin to move westward, it may have arrived as a long-distance trade item. Evidence presented in this volume by Hays and Weinstein suggests that the earliest pottery in the LMRV is the Florida pottery type St. Johns, which appears at Poverty Point (16WC5) between 3420 and 3285 B.P. Gibson and Melancon (this volume), on the other hand, argue for the precedence of a locally made ware. Whether pottery arrived as an idea, and was first locally produced, or as an item, through long-distance trade, the westward movement of early pottery is clearly linked with long-distance exchange.

Though there are discrete stylistic traditions within the area considered in this volume, the overarching Gulf tradition contains a suite of surface decorations and vessel forms that distinguish it from its counterparts north of the Fall Line. Early potters on the lower Atlantic coastal plain and in the LMRV used a wide variety of decorative treatments, including punctation in random and linear patterns, drag and jab punctation, incising, simple stamping, and occasionally rim bosses (Jenkins et al. 1986; Walthall and Jenkins 1976). Vessel forms of the Gulf tradition evolved from the large, open basins of the early Stallings and Orange traditions to more typically Woodland small beakers and bowls, and some of the later pottery of this tradition (e.g., St. Johns, Tchefuncte, and Alexander) has distinctive podal supports. By contrast, the decorative treatments on the earliest pottery north of the Fall Line primarily consist of fabric or net impressions and cord marking, and many of the earliest vessels north of the Fall Line are relatively large with barrel shapes and sometimes pointed bases (e.g., Fayette Thick and Swannanoa).


To give the reader a sense of the development of the type names and the current problems in the discrete traditions, we provide an overview of the types and culture history of pottery in the Gulf coastal plain. Following Walthall and Jenkins (1976), we have divided the region into two sections, eastern and western. The eastern section includes the Stallings (Claflin 1931), Thoms Creek (Griffin 1945a), St. Simons (Holder 1938), Orange (Griffin 1945b), and St. Johns (Griffin 1945b) pottery series, while the western section incorporates the Norwood, Bayou La Batre (Wimberly 1950, 1960), Wheeler (Haag 1939; Sears and Griffin 1950), Alexander (Griffin 1939; Haag 1939), and Tchefuncte (Ford and Quimby 1945) series. Thoms Creek, Wheeler, and Alexander wares do not play a large part in the chapters in this volume, but they are included in this discussion for the sake of completeness.

Early Pottery in the Lower Atlantic Coastal Plain

In the eastern portion of the study area, a plethora of early pottery types have been described (see Cable 1993; Sassaman 1993a; Shannon 1986, 1987; Stoltman 1972a; Trinkley 1976, 1980 for more exhaustive accounts of the development of these types). Over the years, type names have been winnowed and, while there remains debate over some nomenclature, it is generally agreed that three distinct pottery wares (sensu Rice 1987:484; as a group of types, Shepard 1980:319) emerged between 4500 and 4000 rcybp: Stallings, Orange, and Thoms Creek. Coastal variants of Stallings and Thoms Creek have been proposed; these are discussed further below. In addition, a separate Norwood ware (Phelps 1965), theoretically distinguished from Orange by a sandy paste and simple stamping (Bullen 1972), has been defined for the Florida panhandle area (see discussion in White 2003). Some consider Norwood a regional variant of Orange and thus not a discrete type (e.g., Milanich 1994). Others (e.g., White 2003) find the Norwood concept so poorly defined as to be useless as a taxonomic entity. However, simple stamping and stick impressing do distinguish a panhandle fiber-tempered assemblage from a typical Orange collection (sandy pastes do not: see Cordell, this volume; Saunders, this volume) and evoke connections to Wheeler fiber-tempered pottery. In addition, until recently, the earliest dates for fiber-tempered pottery in the panhandle did not predate ca. 3400 B.P. (Campbell et al., this volume; Kimbrough 1999). These dates, along with the simple stamping, generally have relegated fiber-tempered pottery in west Florida to the western series of fiber-tempered types, and we discuss it in the western section. As fiber-tempered wares moved westward, a fourth ware, St. Johns, appeared in eastern Florida; a sandy ware appeared shortly thereafter (Russo and Heide, this volume).

Orange and Stallings Wares

Stallings (Claflin 1931) is a fiber-tempered ware found in the Savannah River valley and portions of the adjacent coast stretching from the Savannah to the Edisto River drainage (Figures 1.1 and 1.2). To the south, in southern Georgia and eastern Florida, another fiber-tempered ware with a distinct suite of surface treatments, called Orange (Griffin 1945b), is found. Orange wares occur along the Florida Atlantic coast and into peninsular Florida. Orange has also been recovered from sites on the west coast of Florida, in the Glades area, and in the panhandle (Shannon 1987), though it is unclear whether these were trade wares or were locally produced. Cordell addresses this issue in Chapter 4 of this volume.

The earliest dates for Stallings are 4450 ± 135 and 4475 ± 95 rcybp (GXO-343, GXO-345) (Stoltman 1966); these dates, on wood charcoal, render Stallings the earliest pottery in the United States. The dates are from the same stratigraphic level in two different units separated by some 27 m at the Rabbit Mount site. They date the basal level of a Stallings shell midden in the Savannah River swamp in southeastern South Carolina. Corrected and calibrated, these dates extend back to between 5569 and 4654 B.P. The extreme young end of this range is some two hundred years older than the oldest Orange pottery. At present, the earliest secure date for Orange is from the Cock Fight site (8DU7460) at 4447 (4301) 4127 2cal B.P. (Beta-50154) (Russo et al. 1993). Nevertheless, Sassaman (2002, this volume) suggests that Orange and Stallings were derived from a single plain, fiber-tempering tradition, with stylistic divergence occurring around 3800 B.P. as pottery surface decoration developed.

Both Orange and Stallings fiber-tempered wares display the "vesicles," small holes or linear tracks, characteristic of pastes with burned-out organics. Vesicles are generally common to abundant in Orange wares, at least in northeast Florida, while inclusion abundance appears to be more variable in Stallings (Sassaman, this volume). In some cases carbonized fibers are present (these could be AMS dated). Spanish moss is the most commonly cited temper (e.g., Simpkins and Allard 1986), although Wyman (1875) and Brain and Peterson (1971) suggested palmetto fibers as the tempering agent. Both wares were apparently hand modeled initially and then later coil built.

Orange vessels, as the name implies, commonly have an exterior and interior fired color in the orange range, though sherds have a thick, almost black core. This suggests rather high firing temperatures of short durations. Stallings sherds are also characterized by dark cores. Exterior and interior surfaces are darker than those of Orange wares, with oxidized ranges in the yellows and browns (Griffin 1943:160). These are generalities, however, and individual plain sherds are not sortable to type on the basis of fired color.

Decorated Orange and Stallings pottery sherds are relatively easy to differentiate on the basis of surface treatment. Orange has a distinctive suite of narrow-lined, rectilinear incised motifs. Curvilinear elements do occur, though these designs, called Tick Island Incised, are rare and restricted in time and space. Small (1-2 mm), tear-shaped or circular punctations are sometimes added as minor elements alongside incised lines, but they are never used as the sole or even the principal element in a motif. In contrast, Stallings wares display relatively bold punctation with a variety of implements; punctations may be arranged in a random, linear, or curvilinear fashion. Drag and jab is also common. Incising, simple stamping, and designs that combine different techniques, such as punctation and incising, are present but less common and may be temporally sensitive, as is the relative frequency of punctation in general (though see Sassaman 2002:401-402). Orange and Stallings Plain wares may also be differentiated on the basis of lip thickness, lip form, paste texture, paste inclusions, interior and exterior surface treatment, and vessel form (Shannon 1987). Shannon's research also suggested that sandy pastes occurred significantly more often in Stallings and Norwood than in Orange and Wheeler wares. However, as Cordell's and Saunders's research results indicate (this volume), there are areal differences in paste inclusions for Orange wares, as well as differences within assemblages. As a group, northeast Florida Orange wares, for instance, can be quite sandy, but, individually, sherds in a component may have pastes that range from no sand inclusions to abundant sand inclusions.

Finally, Stallings vessel forms can be divided into three types: a shallow, wide-mouthed basin with a flat to semiflat base; a small, slightly restricted-mouth basin; and an unrestricted bowl form with a rounded base (Sassaman 1993a:144). The basins represent earlier, indirect-heat cooking methods, while bowls are associated with direct heating. Rare carinated and recurved bowl forms are also found. Sassaman (this volume) uses the prevalence of bowls at the Stallings Island (9CB1) site to suggest feasting activities at that site, as well as an overall emphasis on serving during the Late Archaic that resulted in intensification of pottery production at that time. Orange vessels also began as shallow basins, which became deeper through time (Bullen 1972; Milanich 1994). Bowl forms do not appear in traditional Orange culture chronologies until quite late in the sequence (late Orange 4-5), but Saunders (this volume) has identified bowls at the Rollins Shell Ring site (8DU7510) in the Orange 3 period.

Thoms Creek

Thoms Creek (Griffin 1945b), another early ware, differs from Orange and Stallings in that it contains little or no fiber but a range of sand sizes and abundances. Some have argued that quartz inclusion size and frequency are temporally diagnostic (e.g., Cable 1993) and have used these characteristics to establish types. Others, however, insist that these paste attributes reflect only clay source variability. In one of the most exhaustive studies of Thoms Creek wares, Trinkley (1980) concluded the latter and argued against using the size of sand inclusions as the basis for establishing different types.

Thoms Creek wares overlap in distribution with Stallings along the Savannah River and in southern South Carolina, but they become the dominant ware north of the Santee River. Thoms Creek and Stallings types approach identity in terms of surface decoration, with the exception of a finger-pinching treatment (called Awendaw by some) that is restricted to the Thoms Creek series and occurs only along the coast. Indeed, sorting of Stallings and Thoms Creek pottery is not as simple as it might appear. Sassaman (1993a:80), Saunders (2002a), and Trinkley (1980:18), among others, note the difficulty of segregating Stallings pottery with little fiber and Thoms Creek pottery with incidental vegetal inclusions. In this volume, Sassaman notes that in the Cosgroves' collection of Stallings vessels from Stallings Island (the type site!), 70 percent of the pastes have only rare fibers and 80 percent have sand inclusions.

Stallings is considered by some to be incontestably ancestral to Thoms Creek (Cable and Williams 1993; Sassaman, this volume; Stoltman 1972a), and it is true that no Thoms Creek site has yet produced a date as old as the oldest dates on fiber-tempered wares from South Carolina and Florida. Others (e.g., Trinkley 1980), however, stress the contemporaneity of the two types for most of their time ranges and conclude that the exact temporal relationship between the wares is unresolved at present. The stratigraphic evidence is unclear. In a number of sites, "pure" Thoms Creek components underlie those with both types. In others, assemblages with only Stallings sherds appear below mixed Thoms Creek/Stallings components. There has not been enough study of the dates, intersite and intrasite distributions, vessel forms, and site functions of these contradictory examples to indicate whether there are temporal, cultural, or functional reasons for the conflicting data or whether they arise from site formation processes. It would not be surprising, however, if Stoltman's (1972a) early conjecture were true. Noting the probable coexistence of Stallings and Thoms Creek in coastal South Carolina, he noted that Thoms Creek might indeed be descended from Stallings but that we should "allow for the possibility that such a descent was a localized rather than a pan-regional development" (Stoltman 1972a:56).


Excerpted from EARLY POTTERY Copyright © 2004 by The University of Alabama Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Rebecca Saunders is Curator of Anthropology in the Museum of Natural History and Adjunct Professor of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University. She is author of Stability and Change in Guale Indian Pottery, A.D. 1300-1702, also published by The University of Alabama Press. Christopher T. Hays is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Washington County.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews