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Dating with Pottery

By comparing pottery sherds found in the three Unit 6 SUs, we were able to determine that the three SUs date back to nearly the same time, as we found matching and similar pottery sherds across the SUs. Some of the sherds from different SUS (the three excavated this year and those excavated in the past) have the same paste and glaze and many are similar in their texture and coloring.

To begin identifying a few of the various pottery sherds found in Unit 6, I followed the procedures outlined in “Identifying Your Finds: First Steps in Identifying Pottery” by Dave Weldrake and the Florida Museum of Natural History’s “Introduction to Ceramic Identification” collection. According to my attempts to identify some of the sherds, we found mainly “coarse” and some “refined” earthenware, with “red, orange, and buff pastes,” and barring “lead opaque glaze, tin enameled lead glaze, and unglazed” decoration (Florida Museum of Natural History).

Pottery sherds from the fsecond bag of SU 1213

Pottery sherds from the second bag of SU 1213.

Alternate view of pottery sherds from the fsecond bag of SU 1213

Alternate view of pottery sherds from the second bag of SU 1213.

It seems likely that these sherds could have been pieces of jars/jugs, pitchers, or bowls. The largest piece of pottery we found in this unit was a large rim piece with red paste and brown lead opaque enameling, which, by its texture, appears to be hand thrown. By the gradual curve of the rim sherd and the enameling on both sides, I would guess that it was once part of a large vessel meant to hold water or other liquids. My best, although very inexperienced, guesses for usage would be that it was either once a part of a water pitcher, or, if the West Room did, in fact, serve as a smith, at some point, that it was used to hold water for cooling hot iron.

The pottery sherds found in the first bag of artifacts from SU 1211.

The pottery sherds found in the first bag of artifacts from SU 1211.

Another view of the pottery  sherds found in the first bag from SU 1211.

Another view of the pottery sherds found in the first bag from SU 1211.

The two pieces of white-glazed pottery from SU 1211 and 1212 appear to be “tin glazed lead (Florida Museum of Natural History)” earthenware, which, according to Weldrake, could suggest that it was crafted in the 16th or 17th century. Perhaps the vessel they belonged to was passed down through generations and, eventually, found its final resting place in the West Room? We cannot, however, use just these two sherds to date the unit. There are other sherds, such as the aforementioned rim sherd and the other seemingly handcrafted pieces, which would suggest habitation within this period, but there are also some sherds which appear to have been part of “manufactured vessels,” judging by their smoothness (Weldrake).

Although one would have to be a ceramics expert to date such sherds and make more sense of them, I am certain that the ceramics and the nails will prove to be some of the most important artifacts for discovering the time period of the pit’s use. Rim sherds are very useful for determining the shape and size of the vessel and a good deal about the pot can be learn with a few sherds, which gives us hope for our artifacts, because we found at least five rim sherds. At the moment and with my very limited knowledge of pottery dating, I would guess that the oldest of these vessels was in use in the late 1700s and early 1800s and that the newest of them were still in use in the early 1900s. The current consensus seems to be that the West Room was likely constructed in the early to mid 1800s, so, it possible, some of the pottery vessels were in use elsewhere, first.

Introduction to Ceramic Identification. Historical Archaeology.  The Florida Museum of Natural History.  https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/histarch/gallery_types/ceramics_intro.asp

Weldrake, Dave. Identifying Your Finds: First Steps in Identifying      Pottery. West Yorkshire Archaeology Advisory Service.                http://www.archaeology.wyjs.org.uk/documents/archaeology/identifying/pottery.pdf

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