Early Period Wares

Although there are good reasons for not relying entirely on surface treatment and decoration, they are useful as a basic grouping device. The earliest pottery was either left plain or decorated with shells, styli, or punches. Simple stamped, and for that matter, plain wares were formed with paddles.

Otherwise all alterations were made by hand. By about 2700BP these were giving way to carved paddle stamping in the South, and textile marking in the north. Later paddles carved with complicated designs were used.

The first of these is the Stallings series. Interested readers should seek out the work of Ken Sassaman (1993) for definitive information. The earliest carbon dates for this and similar fiber tempered wares is from the Georgia and South Carolina coast around the mouth of the Savannah River. A possibly aberrant date of 5120BP has been produced, but most cluster around 4500BP.

Not long after that time people began making pottery that had sand tempering, or in some cases, natural sand in the clay. Although the fiber was omitted, the decorations and basic vessel forms stayed the same as they were with Stallings: generally speaking, unrestricted bowls. This Thoms Creek pottery had a variety of hand applied decorations consisting of various punctates, incising, finger pinching and grooving, and others. John Cable has broken it into three phases: Horse Island, Awendaw, and Minim Island. The latter includes what most people working north of the Santee call “Refuge” - that dentate stamped ware.

At Minim Island pottery with Thoms Creek paste and Refuge decorations, and vice versa, were intermixed in a stratified context. The Refuge and Refuge II sites on the lower Savannah River produced a distinctive simple stamped pottery that was tempered with “abundant grit.” Dentate stamping was actually rare at these sites, making up less than a percent (.8%) of the decorated sherds at Refuge II. North of the Santee dentate stamped pottery dating to about the same time range is common. Cable suggested that a new name be applied, but took no action, so I will suggest that we follow his lead and consider this the Minim Island phase of Thoms Creek ware.