Stallings Plain

exterior viewinterior view

from David Anderson's Stallings Type Descriptions


The type Stallings Plain was first formally described by Griffin (1943:159–160), based on a sample of 28 sherds from the Chester Field shell ring (38BU29) on Port Royal Island, near Beaufort, South Carolina. Griffin's analysis of the Chester Field assemblage included a comparison with Stallings Island materials, which had previously been described in general terms (Claflin 1931; Fairbanks 1942) and noted their basic similarity. Stallings series ceramics are characterized by distinctive linear voids in the paste, formed when plant fibers used in tempering burned out during the firing process. Their distinctive nature has been variously noted for over a century, beginning with the work of Jeffries Wyman at shell middens along the St. John's River in Florida in the early 1870s. Sites characterized by fiber tempered ceramics have received considerable attention over the past half century, in part because of their great age, and because they commonly occur in shell middens offering excellent preservation of a wide range of other artifact categories, including paleosubsistence and human skeletal remains. A number of taxonomic analyses and descriptions of fiber tempered pottery have appeared down through the years (e.g., Fairbanks 1942; Sears and Griffin 1950; Williams 1968:103–105; Stoltman 1972; Sassaman 1993), and the series is the most extensively sampled, described, and dated of any known from the Carolinas (Sassaman 1993:25, 235–244).

In the Georgia–South Carolina area, there is some evidence, notably from the Bilbo site near Savannah, and the Sapelo shell ring on Sapelo Island, that plain fiber tempered pottery occurs prior to decorated forms (Williams 1968:180, 263–278; Sassaman 1993). In the Coastal Plain of South Carolina plain fiber tempered pottery is classified as Stallings Plain; use of other type names, such as St. Simons Plain as proposed by Waring and DePratter (1979:113-114) for Georgia Sea Island area assemblages, has not been universally accepted (e.g., see Griffin 1945; Williams 1968a:103-105; Stoltman 1974:19-20). The incidence of fiber inclusions varies appreciably and in some areas, notably along the Savannah and Ogeechee Rivers, the ware intergrades with Thom's Creek ware, in that some sherds have appreciable sand and only occasional fiber present.

Sassaman (1993), in a seriation employing vessel surface finish and lip form data from 35 Late Archaic sites from in and near the Savannah River Valley, has been able to subdivide the use of Stallings ceramics into three basic subperiods or phases. During the first phase, from ca. 4500 to 3800 BP, assemblages are characterized by thickened and flanged lips, a high incidence of plain vessel forms, and relatively simple punctated designs. In the second phase, from ca. 3800 to 3400BP, decorated vessels dominate assemblages, and a new decorative treatment, punctations over incised lines, appears. Vessels with multiple decorative motifs, or complex design elements, are fairly common at this time. Thickened and flanged lips decline markedly, however, and are gone by the end of the period. The third phase, from ca. 3400 to 3000BP, is characterized by a complete absence of thickened or flanged rims, and a high degree of interassemblage variability, with some Stallings assemblages dominated by plain and others by decorated vessels.

The design element variability that is observed on the Stallings ceramics from the Savannah River Valley may be linked to the intensity of Late Archaic social interaction within the region. Greater diversity in design element occurrence may reflect greater social diversity, if these designs signal concepts such as vessel ownership or group affiliation (Wobst 1977). The three Stallings subphases devised by Sassaman are equated with the emergence, peak, and dissolution of a high level form of sociopolitical integration in the valley. Comparable diachronic analyses with Thom's Creek sites and assemblages remain to be accomplished, although along the coast there is considerable evidence demonstrating that finger pinching, a finish virtually nonexistent in the Stallings series, is the latest decorative treatment to appear in this series (Trinkley 1980a, 1980b; Waddell 1965).

Sorting Criteria

Plain surface finish. Fiber vesicules throughout the paste, typically visible on both the interior and exterior vessel surface regardless of the extent of smoothing. Other wares, particularly Thom's Creek Plain, may have incidental fiber inclusions, or exterior fiber-like impressions resulting from placement of the wet vessel on plant materials prior to firing.


Found throughout the Coastal Plain, Fall Line, and lower Piedmont of eastern Georgia, South Carolina, and southeastern North Carolina. Occasionally noted beyond these areas. Greatest incidence from the Ogeechee to Edisto Rivers.

Chronological Position

Late Archaic period, Stallings and Thom's Creek Phases (ca. 2500 – 1000BC).

Primary References

Claflin (1931:Plate 14); Fairbanks (1942); Griffin (1943:159–160, 1945:467); Sears and Griffin (1950); Caldwell (1952); Williams (1968); Stoltman (1972, 1974); South (1976:Figure 15); Widmer (1976a); Trinkley (1976c, 1980a, 1981a); Anderson (1975a, 1975b); Anderson et al. (1979:132–133); Phelps (1981:77–78); Anderson et al. (1982:246-247); Sassaman (1993).