Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Little Sherd, Big Interest

One aspect of the Danbury site that surprises many people is that it is relatively "artifact-poor." This means that, although we have found many interesting and very informative features at the site such as earth ovens, several different types of burials, shell artifacts from the Gulf coast, and a rare birdstone, the quantities of everyday articles (i.e., pot sherds, flint projectile points, and bone tools) are rather scarce. This fact can be frustrating to some of the folks who join us in the field, but it is probably the result of working in an area of the site that was devoted primarily to the burial of the dead rather than habitation areas where such artifacts would have been used and then discarded in large quantities.

We recently found a very interesting pottery sherd that caused quite a bit of excitement around the dig. Not because it is all that spectacular, but because it is relatively large and bears an intricate decoration. This decoration consists of impressions made with a twisted piece of plant fiber cordage which forms rough but recognizable geometric patterns. Here are images of the front (exterior) and back (interior) of this sherd.

The fine cord-impressions can be seen on both faces of the sherd. This pottery is of a type called Vase Corded and is typical of the Late Woodland period, Western Basin Tradition of the region. The Late Woodland society that made this type of pottery lived between about A.D. 700 and 1000. The cord-impressed technique was used far beyond the western Lake Erie basin. It is found on pottery from Wisconsin through Ontario to New York. Such a wide geographic distribution of a decorative technique indicates that native peoples across the Great Lakes traded not only pottery, but information and ideas that became ingrained in all societies.

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