At the Mississippi site, early pottery was recovered in two forms. The untempered clay, as used with clay balls, only closer to being pure paste, very rare. And the early fiber tempered, rare also, more common than the pure clay shards. We refer to the pottery pure paste and fber tempereresd as being shards, as this is the only form recovered at most sites.
Fiber tempered receives it's name from what appears to be added to the paste. This is in fact a misleading term, but as age is on it's side, it will be retained. It was obvious that the untempered or pure, is lacking any sign of efforts made to help the vessel in the firing, were all but a useless attempt at making a bowl or pot that would survive.
But we need to clear up this misnomer of using the term temper. On pottery making, at least as early man made it, temper was the insertion of material into the paste to absorb the expansion and contraction of the clay paste during the firing. But it would be at least a thousand years of trial and error before true temper was employed.
The so called temper in fiber temper pottery, is in fact an attempt to hold the clay paste together as the bowl was molded. The follicles or imprint of fiber is very evident in this ware. Most likely the fine stems of Spanish Moss, common in the southern United States, was used. The fact that most shards of fiber tempered pottery has been fired is not to suggest the firing was intended. It is more likely the vessels were placed near the heat of the camp fire to dry.
The possibility of either the untempered pots or the fiber added pots would survive a firing is all but impossible. While the fibers aided in the molding, their presence in a true firing would have been dubious. It is for this reason the recovery of shards and the mating shards to restore a vessel is not an option for the archaeologist. But never say never. We were most fortunate here at the Pecos, a fiber tempered vessel was restored and is now on display.
For our viewers, not familiar with the way pottery vessels are normally made today, we need explain that the common pottery wheel is used, a revolving pad on which the paste was spun and hand molded, was an import of the settler from Europe. Man in the new world used the coil method to make his pot and bowls.
At the start he would hand shape a flat pad, if he intended the work to have a flat base, or in most instances for pots he molded a pointed or round base. To this he would add coils of paste. Around and around he would build up his vessel. As he worked he would smooth both the interior and outside with a wet stone, these potters stones have been known to be passed on to later generations.
One feature of pots and bowls made the coil way is the shape many of the shards will take. Not uncommon to see the coils, or their outline in many of the shards as you restore, a great help at times. In the display, note that vessels that came to a restricted top, as in jugs, the size of the opening prevented the upper coils being smoothed over, and they remain.
While fiber tempered pottery is normally undecorated, most likely due to the fibers making the surface resistant to tool use, there was one feature that was discovered at the Mississippi site, that had for many decades been accredited to a later development of pottery form. Legs, or tetrapods.
Pottery made in the Mississippi valley was rare until a style known as Tuhefuncte was developed. Fiber temper was more a sign that a flow of information had passed east and west. To aid us understand this path of ideas we go back to the Florida Gulf Coast sites. A referral to our map of the southeast, show the Gulf Coast sites are at mid point between the popular sites of the Mississippi valley and the similarly popular sites along the Atlantic coast. Two areas of early human development, two paths that were to meet along the beaches of Northwest Florida.
The story of east and west as well as the day to day lives of the people living inland of the coast all combine to tell the story of pottery. I only hope I can offer it to you and still have you make it to the next display. But please try and keep in mind we are talking of early man at a time when individual development depended on his or her advancement in a craft, also dependent as much on travel of others as the quality of the skill.
It would take a thousand years for pottery to find it's way west, beyond the Mississippi valley, but it seemed to move back and forth across the coast of Northwest Florida as if it had been offered on TV. Do you recall the expression "monkey see monkey do", that seems to be the story of pottery. As the clay balls and their use spread, the same path carried each new era of pottery. Pottery, in a way, had become the calender of man. Today we date many sites and most artifacts by their relation to pottery. And so we will do with the shards we offer here.
You may have noted the fiber tempered bowl had settled flat on one side as it dried. A sign the soft clay bowl only sat next to the hearth and not in it. Additionally the color is not of pottery that had had the heat of firing.
The step to making pots and bowls of clay was not a big one. The stone bowls in use would most likely have offered the suggestion. Why the change from stone bowls? Steatite is not what you would call light, a weight of 30 or more pounds could be expected. While the material would be soft and easily carved at the quarry, steatite quickly dried on exposure to air. Thus they, the vessels, had to be finished at the quarry. But clay was local to the habitation site, and thus no UPS charge.
Pot or Bowl? Two terms for pottery, are they the same? No, a pot is considered to be taller than wide, while bowls are shorter and may have more of an expanded interior. But man made other forms and we will offer a few of these later.
While the added fiber to the clay may have aided to retain the vessels shape, it was the insertion of stone grit that made the difference in early pottery surviving. The first sign of this temper, would be at a few FLorida beach sites. At a zone just above the era of clay ball use, and fiber tempered bowls, we encounter a series of pottery that offers us again a mystery.
As this period of pottery development seems limited to the beach sites of Northwest Florida, and the sites investigated by the author, he has named it the Gulf Coast series. Like modern day automobiles we speak of pottery development as series of new forms. The list below is a rough reference to age given to the major periods we will work with.
Clay use, and stone bowls, 4,000 BP
Fiber Tempered, 3,000 BP
Gulf Coast, 2,500 BP
Deptford, 2,000 BP
Santa Rosa Swift Creek, 1,800 BP
Weeden Island, 1,200 BP
Fort Walton, 800 BP
The dates offered are suggested times of introduction of each series. Each had a number of styles that were developed and their use demonstrates that man was ever on the move in his looking for the better bowl. The Gulf Coast pottery is not unlike the others it also under went change, but it's relation to the old and new gives us the question, who offered it first, east or west. As stated earlier fiber tempered pottery in Mississippi was undecorated, the same for shards and the bowl recovered at the Gulf Coast sites in Florida. One feature was noted. The legs recovered in Mississippi.
In the lower Mississippi valley a series of pottery was introduced that is referred to as the Tuhefuncte style. Stone, or grit temper has been introduced to the pottery, now decoration could be applied to vessel, and the Tuhefuncte series has many forms of it. One feature long accredited to this early pottery had been it's prominent tetrapods, or legs. At the Mississippi site their shards of fiber tempered vessels were recovered, with tetrapods. Thus we now move the introduction of legs forward a few centuries.
The introduction of legs is just the first feature that aids us to maintain our calendar of pottery history. As with the clay balls, and the barrel form, each change will find a relationship either forward or back, as well as either east or west. Thus this page of history may seem scrambled, but the total will fit as sure as a jigsaw puzzle.
I have repeated how fiber tempered pottery recovered at the western and beach site had been developed undecorated. Now we will compare the shards of the Atlantic coast to the east. The Piedmont of Georgia and the water ways of northeast Florida were major homes to the makers of fiber tempered vessels. Here decoration of the wet paste was a common practice. As with future pottery, forms of decoration were repeated frequently, as such could be listed by style.
Our first change, from the shards recovered at the Mississippi site and the Florida Gulf coast site, the Atlantic coast shards show decoration. As could be expected with a sandy clay paste the style is punctuate. This being a design placed in the soft surface with a tool. As one would expect the dragging of a tool as in used with incising designs would be perilous on a paste that is imbedded with fibers.
Our first question is one of time, the over lapping of the undecorated and the decorated shards. Where the areas of fiber tempered of the west precedent of the east? Was the east being ahead of the west or just a chance of unrelated similarity? For this we will turn to the Gulf Coast site. Here the new pottery that replaced the fiber tempered, is now decorated, as well the Tuhefuncte pottery of Mississippi valley. A comparison of the three areas as in the display will demonstrate the same tools and patterns employed. It would suggest that the fiber temper of the west and the beach sites were replaced slightly ahead of the east coast. Or maybe it should be said the east was just one step behind the western sites.
The Tuhefuncte and the the similar decorated Fiber Tempered of the Atlantic, may have shared the designs and tools with the pottery of the beach sites of Northwest Florida, but again the beach boys were stepping out ahead of the class. It may have been the fine grit that was being used, or the quality of the clay, or both, but a new decoration was being used there. The vessels were beginning to have incised patterns employed.
Could it be said that the pottery makers were entering the "fine art state" in their new vessels? For among the shards recovered was the first evidence of zoomorphic art in pottery. Amidst the normal shards, with legs, new forms and all the common features of Tuhefuncte pottery, there was a Gulf Coast series vessel recovered with a picture incised on the panel side of the bowl.
In time a second vessel was noted, but the base and a small area of the design was available to us. But it's recovery was most important, as this second vessel was complete with the common legs of the Gulf Coast series and the Tuhefuncte pottery. Again a tie was made, the calendar is becoming more confusing with each new discovery. Then we could also say the history of early potters was being revealed to us, a classic sharing of new ideas among early man.
The mystery, you may recall I promised you one, and now the time has come to reveal it. The era of the Gulf Coast series of pottery recovered at the Northwest Florida sites, had introduced to pottery art in a new form. Again a new period of pottery would replace this style in common use. The Deptford pottery was now being introduced. At this time the influence of future pottery was divided. The influence in the west, the Mississippi valley sites, would go their own path, while pottery of the south east United States, sites east of the Mississippi river, would take a different influence of decoration and manufacture.
To this point the development of pottery and the influence on it was a east west one. But the Deptford pottery was a inland development. Wide spread in the south east, it would offer a new set of pottery standards. Few of which are related to the earlier periods. Again we will look for the influence of potters of difference social zones to find the beginning, the middle and the end of our new period, the Deptford.
As stated the new influence we will call the Deptford came to the coast from inland unlike the earlier forms that were a east west communication of advancements. The Deptford like the others had a early period, one lacking a wide assortment of art, plain as noted in the display to a suggestion of a new art form at the end. But one thing it did not offer is the quality displayed by the Tuhefuncte vessel and its incised zoomorphic art. The Gulf Coast potter had been short lived. The quality of picture art would be many centuries in appearing in south eastern pottery again, at least along the Gulf Coast. Why, we may never know, a page of history gone and still to be located.
We suggest the plain vessels of the Deptford series as the earliest form, not so much as it was only recovered at the lowest depths of the sites, but the history of man as demonstrated with all new crafts. From the history of weaving, cave art, and pottery, at the historical beginning each of these as new crafts had it's beginnings as plain. Only to find that art, the touch of man, as he inserted his human touch, would bring each craft to be a medium of his personal art. Deptford potters demonstrate this in the early Simple Stamp, Check Stamp and eventually the Complicated samples at the end. The need of a vessel had been fulfilled, the need to display the individual's touch would never be ended.
As our display and charts offer, the Deptford series was replaced by the highly decorative Santa Rosa Beach series. Here the new art of using a paddle to transfer a personal designed pattern to the paste would reach a peak of art. It would seem, the vessel was no longer just a pot, it was a object of personal pride. And as with many peaks in man's history this was a pinnacle of pottery as his voice.
Later centuries would offer the Weeden Island style of decoration, at best a history of decline in pottery art. Same tools, same patterns, only the interest or heart of the potter was fading. It would be until the last few century prior to the arrival of white man from Europe, before the craftsman of the southeast would arise and offer a new form of art in pottery, the Fort Walton series was all but a new era in pottery.
The tall graceful pot of the Santa Rosa era were gone, the intricate designs of the Complicated vessels no more. Where had this skill gone? Where did the new come from? Yes all past forms and decorations were to be seen no more. The Fort Walton period would change everything. As if there had been no past, art now taking a new form. The form and patterns of pottery art would be all new. Skill of the potter was to see a new but brief era of brilliance, only to vanish only a few generations before the invasion from the east. It would be only with the new skills of the modern American Indian that we see the return of the skills lost.
The Fort Walton vessels where often related to the early religion influence, art of man as he offered his life style to the mysteries of God. From the mid western plains of America, the faith of the Southern Cult had spread eastward. Many of the Fort Walton bowls will carry this motif, a bit of religion history that reached the Gulf Coast.
It may have been this cult influence on the potters of the Fort Walton era, that led them to make many of their vessels with human or animals images attached. Even the overall shape of many vessels would be altered in this desire to give life form to the works.
Pottery of the southeast had come a long way, it had, or would, spread out to the west in the coming centuries. But the days of it's start, from the eastern sites, is well documented. From the sites along the Atlantic Coast and the north Gulf Coast and the beaches, and the lower Mississippi valley we have recovered the pages of it's story. As we see in the displays of the Pecos, art would find it's way and add to the history of man.
Before you leave, the Pecos offers a few views of the artifacts, recovered by Clarence B. Moore.
From the Southeast United States and it's river ways, his work 1890 - 1915. DON'T miss this.
Now Offered on our Home PAGE