Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Pot with a Twist

Over the past week we made several interesting discoveries. One was the uncovering of a small pottery vessel in Feature 11-19. This pot appears to have been stored or cached in a small pit lined with fragments of gray shale. It was a big surprise to simply find such an artifact just below the plow zone. In fact, it looks like only a small section was taken away by more than a century of cultivation in this field. Although somewhat crushed by the weight of the soil overburden, the little pot was in pretty good shape as shown in the image below.

The accompanying pieces of shale perplexed us at first, until we realized that most of the fragments lay at the sides and beneath the vessel. I suspect that the small pit containing the pot was lined with these fragments. Such preparation of a pit feature may have been necessary to preserve its shape for use as a permanent storage pit or cyst for holding things like this vessel. Little storage pits like this have been found in association with house structures (stay tuned for more on this intriguing inference). Nothing else was found in the pit except shale and pot sherds, in fact there really was not room for anything else. Unfortunately, the lack of bone fragments or charcoal means that we will not be able to obtain a direct date on this feature. One clue to its age does exist, however.

As I examined some of the cordmarked body sherds, I could see that they bore the negative (reverse) impression of an S-twist fiber cordage. Nearly all of the Early or Middle Woodland cordmarked pottery found in northern Ohio exhibits a similar twist pattern. Interestingly, most Late Prehistoric pottery have the impressions of Z-twist cordage. The differences in twist pattern reflect different methods of hand-spinning cordage, which may seem trivial, but appears to be a reliable indicator of culture change and time. This shift in cordage twist is also seen across much of the Midwest and Northeast. With the lack of datable material, the twist pattern may be all we have to place this interesting artifact in a general time frame. In archaeology, we are happy for the little things which help us reconstruct the past.