Historic Period Wares

Native Americans made Pee Dee and Lamar/Irene wares well into the 16th century and, in some cases, into the 17th century. When the Spanish settled at Santa Elena in the 1560s, for example, Irene was beginning to morph into Altamaha wares, according to Chester DePratter (2009).

Few sites from the historic period have been excavated, however, so the particulars remain elusive. Stanley South believed the Ashley series was a component of his historic Yorkware group dating to the late 17th century, because he found sherds in the fortification ditch at Charlestowne, and obtained a carbon date of 1680 from a feature (South 1969, 1971, 2002). Recent dates obtained from a site on Daniel Island, near Charleston, seem to have pushed the age of this ware back into the 1400s, however (Lansdell 2009). Michael Trinkley identified hisWachesaw and Kimbel types as late 17th-early 18th century wares, but they do not appear to be very different from the later wares in the Wateree Sequence and South's Ashley ware.

Although the Spanish certainly had an influence in the deep South, when the English settled at Jamestown in 1608 the dissolution of Southeastern Native cultures began in earnest. Traders began trekking into the hinterlands to obtain furs and hides. By the 1650s Virginians had traveled through South Carolina by land (Crane 1956; Bowne 2005). Their effect in North Carolina and Virginia was more profound, as groups jockeyed for position to act as middle men and control the trade resulting in conflicts (Ward and Davis 1993; Gallay 2002). Also during the 17th century groups allied with the French in Canada and New York were encouraged to raid their Southern enemies and European settlers on the frontier. Tribes such as the Sara and Keyauwee moved south into South Carolina during the second half of the 17th century. They should, presumably, be making late Dan River series wares. Other 17th century wares made their way from North to South Carolina as well, presumably. Oldtown series wares have been found at the Kolb Site (38DA75) and one might expect to see Cashie, Townsend, Caraway and Uwharrie types as well (see Herbert 2003, Coe 1995, and Davis 1999 ed.).

A similar situation is found in the Savannah drainage and the western part of the state. Although the potters were making what DePratter (2009) calls Altamaha on the coast, the ceramics inland fit comfortably into the Chicora ware group (the Etowah-Savannah-Irene/Lamar-Pee Dee continuum) until late in the 17th century. When the British settled Charleston in 1670 they immediately began pursuing the Indian trade. The expansion of plantation slavery in Virginia and the Caribbean was also underway, and soon taking slaves became an integral part of the trade (Gallay 2002). By 1708 South Carolina traders were active on the Mississippi River (Moore 1999). Groups from the far west came to the state to trade, and others to settle and try to serve as middle men.

Towns populated by Westo, Savannah, Chickasaw, Appalachee, Yuchi, and Yemassee, among others, were established along the Savannah in the Coastal Plain. At this writing only sites occupied by the Yemassee have been reported on (Southerlin 1998, Green 1989), although additional Yemassee sites have been excavated for which reports are outstanding (Sweeney 2009).

Likewise a historic village producing shell tempered pottery was excavated in North Augusta but the final report is not complete. In a short paper Tom Whitley (2009) discusses the site, and believes its historic component may be related to the Westo. This was a remnant Erie group that moved to Virginia from Upstate New York in the 1650s, stopping in Virginia in the 1660s and ending up at the Fall Line on the Savannah by 1659 (Bowne 2005). They were feared slavers, and reputed to be cannibals. They went to war with the colonists in 1680, and were killed, enslaved, or run out of the colony by 1683.

During the years to follow the Savannah, themselves expatriates from the north, were joined by "a collection of refugees and conquered peoples" (Ramsey 2008, in Whitley 2009). By the 1710s the traders had abused the natives sufficiently that nearly every tribe rose up in the Yemassee War. Their defeat sent them west to escape the state militia and there they remained.

Whitley considers shell temper the strongest diagnostic for 17th-18th century ceramics in the middle Savannah, and shell tempered wares dominated their collection (Whitley 2009). He also points to bold incised and red filmed decorations. Shell tempering occurs on late period sites throughout the southeast, though it is very uncommon in South Carolina except along the Santee.

In the Santee drainage Pee Dee series wares are thought to enter the Daniel phase in the 17th century. Mound building appears to have ended in the 15th century, but the Cofitachequi chiefdom was visited by DeSoto in the 1520s, by later Spaniards and by Henry Woodward in the 1670s, but it was no longer occupied when John Lawson came through in 1701.

The people of Cofitachequi are thought to have moved upriver and become one of the groups that made up the coalescing Catawba Nation. Research by UNC Research lab archaeologists (Riggs et al 2007; Fitts et al 2007) indicates that into the 1750s traditional Lamar/Pee Dee type vessels, rim and surface treatments were common, though there was a noticeable trend toward thinner, burnished wares like those seen in Colonoware assemblages in the Lowcountry. Late in the 1750s an epidemic struck, and the Catawba "Old Town" was abandoned. They regrouped in Camden and may have lodged with a related group there. When they returned to the Rock Hill area they settled a "New Town" and began making thinner vessels with burnished surfaces and European style forms that are recognizably the same as modern Catawba wares. These were sometimes decorated with pigment.

Catawba trade wares may have developed from the Colono-Indian wares of North Carolina and Virginia, though early researchers like Holmes (1903), and Fewkes (1944) argue for the reverse. They noted the similarities between the form and finish of Pamunkey wares in Virginia and Catawba ware, and pointed to documented intermarriage. In Virginia, however, these thin, highly burnished wares often made in European forms are found in low numbers in assemblages from the 17th and early 18th centuries but are seldom seen in later contexts (Mouer et al 1999). Ivor Noel-Hume called it Colono-Indian ware in general (1962). Lewis Binford (1964) studied the Meherrin and Nottoway, natives of Southern Virginia and called their pottery "Courtland." In North Carolina Stanley South (1960, 1976) called the same ware "Brunswick Burnished."

Riggs et al (2007) argue for a general trend toward the type of ceramics that emerge after 1759 as Catawba trade ware. Brunswick Burnished ware is clearly present in assemblages at Brunswick Town, near Wilmington, from the 1730s to the American Revolution (South 1976). The next drainage to the south is the Pee Dee, where Catawba pottery clearly occurs in 19th century contexts at 38DA75. So it does not require a great leap of faith to suggest the possibility of interaction between 18th century Catawba people and potters from the north who specialized in trade wares.

In the Lowcountry around Charleston hand made, unglazed low fired pottery is found in such great numbers on plantation sites that it has been argued that the only explanation for its presence is that the slaves must have been making it (Ferguson 1978, 1993; Anthony 1979, 1986). As most slaves, and indeed, the majority of South Carolinians in the early 18th century were from Africa, it was thought that Colonoware was an African product, or heavily African influenced at the least. However, thin, highly burnished, sometimes painted sherds with a fine micaceous paste stand out from the majority of colonoware sherds.

Ron Anthony (1986) and Leland Ferguson (1989) have attempted to establish a Colonoware typology that accounts for the variability seen in the wares based on finishing and body texture. Nearly all colonoware has plain surfaces, and most sherds have burnished to highly polished surfaces. Sand may be present, but it does not appear to be purposely introduced. This pottery was made from about 1700 to the 1830s. Anthony and Ferguson resisted calling their "River Burnished" type "Catawba" because at the time they had not been to a Catawba potter's production site and determined what was actually there. The Catawba were made up of numerous remnant groups after all, and it could just as well be a Sara, or Pee Dee product. With evidence from the recent work (Riggs et al 2007 and elsewhere) in York County it seems safe to call "River Burnished" ware Catawba pottery.

Now the question is, who made the other colonoware? Three of Anthony and Ferguson's types are thicker, and somewhat coarser. Because it is dense on plantations, especially in slave settlements, it has been assumed that slaves made it. This overlooks the presence of free "Settlement Indians," descendants of the Etiwan, Edisto, Kiawah, Wando and the other tribes that lived in the Charleston area who would have been making Irene and Altamaha like wares. Plain, burnished ware, in other words. And it also overlooks the presence of enslaved Indians. They made up some 30% of the slave population as late as the 1720s (Menard 1995) and many of them were women. Southeastern Native American pottery was almost exclusively made by women and by the turn of the 18th century plain and burnished pottery was being made all across the region.

It has been argued before that a creole society developed in the Lowcountry because of the unique demographic there (Steen and Cooper 1998). In the middle of the 18th century the majority of the residents were African or African-American from a wide array of sources. They were joined in slavery by Native Americans, also from a wide variety of sources. Other possible sources include local free Indians. The European derived people who lived here also came from a variety of sources including Germany, Switzerland, France, Britain, the West Indies and the other American colonies. From this mix Colonoware emerged somehow.

Pottery making among Native Americans in South Carolina has changed drastically since the first Spanish explorers crossed the state in the 1520s, yet it is a practice that is still being carried out in the 21st century with no end in sight.