June 21, 2012

My Preschool Archaeologist

Cecilia (my 3-year-old) and I were on a walk in the woods this afternoon when she found some pottery sherds eroding out of the path from underneath a small tree root.  We recovered what we could, took them home, and cleaned them off.  Then she looked for joins and glued the pieces together.

Whiteware with brown slip?Putting it together
I know next to nothing about historic American pottery.  Anyone want to hazard a guess as to age?  The paste seems pretty solid, so I'm guessing it's pretty recent.  One piece is brown on both sides, but the rest are white on one side and brown on the other.  It seems to be a big vessel of some sort - a large pot, I gather.

I explained a bit about context, erosion, surface scatter, and how to clean pottery to understand what it used to be.  Cecilia really likes the book Archaeologists Dig for Clues, so she has a pretty good idea about what archaeology is.  But she wasn't nearly as interested in the sherds as I was... or in my explanation of taphonomic processes that may have brought those particular sherds to rest in that particular place.  Maybe in a few more years...  Right now, C's much more interested in showing what a good primate she is!


5 comments:

Dubravko J. said...

Well, I'd guess the brown piece is older, since brown color on both sides means it was baked (baked? I don't know how it's called in English, the process of putting the clay into fire to dry it...) on lower temperature than some other forms, like yellowish pottery. And as it seems this white film on other pieces is quite thin, I'd guess some other, more recent technique was used for it. Considering you're also an archaeologist, and probably way more educated in that field than I am, I guess that's not some huge news to you, but still... Anyway, have fun trying to date it, I guess it won't be a boring exercise :D

UNCHistArch said...

Dubravko, I don't think this is the kind of ceramic you're thinking of...you can't tell firing temperature from the color of the paste when you're talking about historic ceramics. Stoneware can have a brown slip on both sides, but is still fired at a higher temperature than yellowware or other refined ceramics.

I can't really tell from the two pictures what kind of ceramic that is...did all of them refit, or did the brown-brown piece not? My initial guess would be white graniteware (aka ironstone) and/or stoneware. If you can take some more pictures of the cleaned ceramics that would be helpful (front, back, and paste).

As far as age, there's not much literature (that I'm aware of)out there about dating stonewares after the mid-19th century, and given that it's been such a huge industry in North Carolina for so long, there's not much you can do unless you've got a maker's mark (I'm new to the Southeast though, it would be lovely to be shown to be wrong - but my sense is that no one's put out an academic book talking about how stoneware attributes in the U.S. have changed over time and what date ranges to apply). White graniteware, though, has a production date of roughly 1840-1930.

Kristina Killgrove said...

Yeah, this is probably some sort of stoneware. The white and the brown are both slips - white on the outside and brown on the inside of the vessel, at least towards its top. There's a point where that changes to brown on both sides.

The pieces did not all fit back together - just two did. It's a bit curious that I found it along the path in the woods (Ephesus Elementary at Colony Woods, for you locals), but I don't know what the history of the land is. Currently the find spot is halfway between the American Legion and the elementary school, and of course fairly near a couple of housing developments.

Maybe I'll go back tomorrow and see if I can find more fragments. I did find a piece of rusting tin can (perhaps from chewing tobacco) and a lot of dog poop (popular place to walk dogs), but the kiddo didn't want to exhaustively survey the area. :)

Anonymous said...

Plain whiteware (ca. 1825-1900+)or could be ironstone (ca. 1810-1900+)depending on paste porousity. Buff-bodied domestic brown stoneware with Albany slip-glaze ca. 1810-1900+. J. Green.

Kristina Killgrove said...

Thanks for the info! If any NC archaeologists want to know the find spot for further digging, let me know. :)

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