Overview by Jane Eastman


The Dan River series was first defined by Coe and Lewis (1952) from an assemblage of sherds recovered during test excavations at Lower Saratown (Rkl). At that time, Dan River pottery was thought to have been made by the Sara between AD 1625 and 1675. A re-analysis of ceramic collections housed at the Research Laboratories of Anthropology and additional fieldwork and analysis have led to a re-interpretation of the Dan River series as Late Prehistoric (Dickens, et al. 1987, Ward and Davis 1993).

Sorting Criteria

Dan River sherds are characterized by a compact, sandy paste that is tempered with sub-angular quartz particles (less than 4 diameter) and fine to medium sand. In most cases the vessel interior has been scraped smoothed and temper particles do not protrude through vessel walls. Decoration was focused on the lip, margin, and the neck of jars. Decorative elements include incised lines oriented parallel and oblique to the rim, brushed bands, fingernail impressions, various punctations and notches.


The Dan River series occurs in the central North Carolina and Southern Virginia Piedmont incorporating the Dan and Yadkin drainages. It is comparable to the Haw River series defined for the Haw and Eno drainages in North Carolina Piedmont and the Wythe series defined for western Virginia.

Chronological Position

AD 1000-1700. The chronological position for the Dan River phase has been well-defined by radiocarbon dating. The calibrated intercepts for of forty-five dates associated with Dan River ceramics range between ca. AD 1000 and 1450, with most between ca. AD 1200 and 1450 (Eastman 1994a:29). A radiocarbon sample from Feature 18 at Upper Saratown (Skl a) returned a calibrated intercepts that range from ca. AD 1328 to 139 1. Though the Dan River phase is late prehistoric, Dan River Net Impressed vessels continued to be manufactured as a minority ware throughout the contact period (Ward and Davis 1993).


Coe and Lewis (1952); Dickens, et al. (1987); Ward and Davis 1996 (ms in Part I).