Santee Simple Stamped

from David Anderson's type description


Until quite recently, sand tempered simple stamped wares in the southeastern Atlantic Coastal Plain were assumed to date fairly early, from the late Archaic to the Middle Woodland periods (excluding stamped Mississippian period wares). In the mouth-of-the-Savannah sequence, for example, Refuge Simple Stamped, the only sand tempered simple stamped type in use, has a range of from roughly 1100 BC to AD 500 (Depratter 1979). In coastal North Carolina sand tempered simple stamped wares have also been reported from an Early Woodland context, in the New River (Loftfield 1976: 149- 150; described as New River Thong-Marked) and Deep Creek series (Phelps 1981) In coastal South Carolina simple stamped ceramics have been widely reported, usually under the Thom's Creek, Refuge, or Deptford type names Caldwell and Waring Caldwell 1952, Waring 1968b, 1968c; Stoltman 1974; Trinkley 1976a, 1980a, Anderson et 1979; to cite a few examples), and somewhat less commonly using a general sand tempered category Brooks and Scurry 1978; Anderson 1975b; 1979a); where a general category was used the finish was (almost invariably) assumed to be early in subsequent interpretations.

The only attempt to suggest a continuation of simple stamping into the late prehistoric in the Coastal Plain area of South Carolina prior to the work at Mattassee Lake was by George Stuart who defined what he called the Ceramic Complex from the Middle Wateree Valley locality. This series, composed of sand tempered Simple Stamped, Incised, and Check Stamped types, was based on a sample of "almost 80 sherds" (Stuart 1975: 85) recovered from the Guernsey or "Cut-Off Island" site, located on a small island in the Wateree River east of South Carolina. A small sample of sherds from the site had been previously described by Griffin (1945; 971- 479, who suggested that the simple stamped, cord-marked, and check stamped ceramics elements were post-Early Woodland in age, but prior to the introduction of complicated stamping pre-Mississippian). The Series is presumably generally similar to the Santee assemblage described here, although precise chronological placement of the material is difficult because few specimens exist. Unfortunately, all of the sherds in both Griffin and Stuart's samples were from surface collections, and the material from the Guernsey site itself was found washed out of the river bank on a sand bar. This lack of secure context and control for the chronological placement of the Series, coupled with the fact that few artifacts resembling Stuart's type materials have been found in the years since the series was defined, has precluded its widespread use.

The unambiguous stratigraphic placement of a sand tempered simple stamped ware in a late Woodland context (i. e. post Deptford/McClellanville phases) at Mattassee Lake, supported by a battery of 12 internally consistent radiocarbon dates (six each for the Cape Fear and Santee series), has forced a major reevaluation of the temporal occurrence of simple stamping in the South Carolina area.

Concurrent with the analysis of the Mattassee Lake assemblage, Michael Trinkley (198 1 c, 1 d) identified and described the McClellanville series, based initially on test excavations at the Walnut Grove shell midden (38CH260) in northern Charleston County 198 Four types were defined, McClellanville Simple Stamped, McClellanville Plain, McClellanville Fabric Impressed, and McClellanville Cord-Marked. Since that time, Trinkley has conducted excavations at the Awendaw shell midden (38CH300) and has examined collections from elsewhere in northern Charleston County, gathering additional information on the occurrence of this series. Two formal descriptions of the McClellanville series types have been offered (Trinkley 1981b, 1981d), and an age for the series from roughly AD 500 to 800 has been posited (Trinkley 18). The association of the cord-marked and fabric impressed types with the plain and simple stamped wares has recently been questioned by the author (Trinkley 1981c: 18; 1981d: 9), see also background discussion for Cape Fear Fabric Impressed and the McClellanville series, as currently defined, would appear to consist of the plain and simple stamped types. Close similarity with the late simple stamped ware found at Mattassee Lake was indicated (Trinkley 1981b: 11-12; 1981c: 18; 1981d: 10), although some differences were noted:

Also closely related is Anderson's Santee Series (David Anderson, personal communication) found from the Santee-Cooper Rediversion Project in Berkeley County. The Santee Series, however, has a variety of later features, such as excurvate rims, fine paste variation, and frequent interior rim stamping, which are not duplicated in the McClellanville Series (Trinkley 1981d: 9).

Similarities with Stuart's (1975) series of simple stamped pottery ware also noted; like the Mattassee Lake material the material was also assumed to be later than the McClellanville type (Trinkley 1981c: 18).

The extensive late prehistoric simple stamped assemblage recovered at Mattassee Lake was classified Santee Simple Stamped. Close similarity with Stuart's (1975) Simple Stamped and Trinkley's (198 McClellanville Simple Stamped types is acknowledged. Use of Santee as opposed to McClellanville or terminology follows from the nature of the type samples themselves. Unlike either of the other two simple stamped type collections, the Santee Simple Stamped assemblage from Mattassee Lake is extensive sherds), and its relative and absolute temporal position well documented. The ware was recovered in over one hundred 0.5 and 2.0 meter excavation units along the terrace with temporal controls provided by both the assemblage stratification and a series of 12 internally consistent radiocarbon dates. A Late Woodland (post-Cape Fear, pre-Pee Dee) age for the ware is indicated.

Stratigraphically, for example, the ware is higher, or more popular later, than the Cape Fear Fabric Impressed type in the block unit. In the excavation block, where virtually no fabric impressed pottery was recovered, Santee Simple Stamped is clearly later than the Thom's Creek and Deptford types found in the block; the virtual absence of fabric impressed sherds suggests that the finish is not temporally coeval with the Santee Simple Stamped type, at least over its entire range.

Twelve radiocarbon dates from along the Mattassee Lake terrace support these stratigraphic inferences (see Chapter 11). Six dates, from four features with Cape Fear pottery present in the fill (all from the block), solidly place this series from AD 520 to 710; no Santee Simple Stamped sherds were found in any of these features. Another six samples, from six features with Santee Simple Stamped pottery present in the fill (four from and two from 38BK246 produced dates from AD 810 to AD 1340. Replacement of a cord and fabric impressed assemblage with an assemblage dominated by simple stamping is indicated; the available evidence suggests that this transition occurred about AD 700-800.

The temporal extent of the Santee Simple Stamped type would appear to be about 500 to 700 years, from roughly AD 750 to 1350. A similar late date, around AD 1000, and possibly from circa AD 800 to 1400, is suggested by Stuart (1975:87, 138, 15 1-152) for his Ceramic Complex; unfortunately this series remains to be found in secure context. Association of Santee Simple Stamped-like ware with Mississippian pottery types would also appear to be documented at the Walnut Grove and Awendaw shell middens (Trinkley 1981b:, 1981c). AtWalnut Grove, where fair assemblage stratification is evident in the levels of the six five foot squares excavated (Trinkley 1981b: Table 2), over 90 percent (n=142, 92.8 percent) of Trinkley's McClellanville Simple Stamped type is found in Level 1, which also yielded all of the Savannah and Pee Deeceramics identified from the site. At the Awendaw midden, where four five foot squares were excavated, over 80 percent 81.4 percent) of the McClellanville Simple Stamped sherds recovered came from Level 1, which also produced most of the (Mississippian period) complicated stamped wares; Trinkley (1981c:21) has cautioned, however, that the deposits at this site are "thoroughly mixed," with the two associated radiocarbon dates contradictory and hence unacceptable. The data from the Awendaw and Walnut Grove shell middens, in spite of some ambiguities, does tend to support a late occurrence for simple stamping, extending into the Mississippian period. It should be noted, however, that Trinkley does not accept such a late extent, arguing instead that:

The McClellanville Series is known to postdate Deptford and predate Pee Dee, based on stratigraphic reconstructions from the Walnut Grove and Awendaw middens (Trinkley 1981c: 18).

A range of from AD 500 to AD 800 is suggested; these conclusions are not, however, supported by the excavation data from these sites reported above.

What the data collected by Stuart, Trinkley, and at Mattassee Lake clearly indicate is that a previously unrecognized Late Woodland ceramic series, dominated by simple stamped pottery, is present in the central Coastal Plain of South Carolina along the Santee-Wateree drainage. At the present, simple stamping is the only finish that can be unambiguously attributed to this series, although research by Trinkley and Stuart suggests that plain, incised, cord, and fabric marked wares may also be associated; the data from Mattassee Lake supports an association of plainwares, and points to the presence of cord and fabric marking during the transition period when the use of these finishes was augmented by the addition of the distinctive form of simple stamping characteristic of the Santee Simple Stamped type.

A total of 159 1 sherds of Santee Simple Stamped, var. Santee were recovered in the 1979 excavation units at Mattassee Lake. The ware is characterized by the somewhat haphazard application of parallel, v-shaped impressions, suggesting use of a thong wrapped or possibly incised or gouged paddle. The regular, careful application of parallel, U-shaped impressions characteristic of the Deptford Simple Stamped type are absent. Cross stamping dominates the Santee Simple Stamped assemblage (n= 1190, 74.8 percent); parallel stamping, common on both the Thom's Creek and Deptford Simple Stamped types, is comparatively infrequent. Stamp width is typically narrow, from 1.0 to 2.0 wider impressions (roughly 4.0 mm) were evident on only a small proportion of the assemblage (n=144, 9.1%)

The ware is dominated by very pale brown, brown, and reddish yellow colors, while the paste is characterized by a moderate amount of fine sand, with comparatively few larger (1.0-2.0 mm) quartz inclusions (although these are present in most sherds). Interior surface finish is quite variable. Fine scraping marks are evident on a fair minority of the sherds, and slightly over a tenth of the assemblage exhibited interior stamping or incising, typically perpendicular or at high angles to the rim. Rims were predominantly straight or excurvate, with other forms characterized by flattened and rounded (frequently) stamped lips. Vessel lips are typically stamped; over three quarters 77.6 percent) of the Santee Simple Stamped rims exhibited simple stamping, with one sherd additionally punctated along the lip. A few unusual, thickened lips were present in the assemblage, but most were the same thickness as the rim profile. Most of the sherds appear to come from large (c. 40 cm in diameter at the rim), slightly tapering jars with rounded or faintly conoidal bases. A few sherds with incurvate rims appear to come from small, hemispherical bowls between 20 and 30 cm in diameter.

The Santee Simple Stamped assemblage from Mattassee Lake differs somewhat from Stuart's (1975: 174) Simple Stamped type in having a higher incidence of excurvate rims, but otherwise the wares are quite similar. A number of the Simple Stamped sherds also exhibited exterior incising (noted on only one Santee Simple Stamped sherd at Mattassee Lake); this treatment appears to be the primary difference between the two series, and may reflect greater manufacturing or decorative sophistication in the upper Wateree Valley locality, where major ceremonial centers were beginning to emerge. The Santee ware differs somewhat from Trinkley's coastal McClellanville type in having a higher incidence of flattened lips, and in having lip treatment (ie, stamping), which was not noted in Trinkley's (198lb, 1981c) samples. The high incidence of rounded, undecorated lips in the coastal sample suggests that the material is earlier than that at Mattassee Lake (based on the stratigraphic trends noted above). The ware is clearly much later in time than Loftfield's (1976: 149-150) New River Thong-Marked type, although otherwise these wares are similar in description. Relationships with prehistoric simple stamped types farther removed in space Connestee Simple Stamped; Keel 1976) remain to be determined, although the occurrence of simple stamping at a Late Woodland time level appears to be more common in the Southeast Atlantic slope than is currently assumed.

Sorting Criteria

Tapered, v-shaped longitudinal grooves over the exterior vessel surface. Impressions (typically) narrow (about 1.0-2.0 mm) and shallow (1.0-2.0 mm); v-shaped profile characteristic. Cross stamping at high angles to the rim (oblique to perpendicular) predominates, parallel stamping less common. Rims (typically) straight to excurvate, with both rounded and flattened lips; lip treatment (typically simple stamping) common. Interior simple stamping at or nearly perpendicular with the rim on a small minority of the sherds. Interiors well to poorly smoothed, fine scraping marks evident on a fair minority of the sherds. Paste characterized by fine sand and some (typically few) clear quartz inclusions from 0.5 to 2.0 mm in size. May be confused with Thom's Creek Simple Stamped and Deptford Simple Stamped.


Santee Simple Stamped occurs in the central Coastal Plain and fall line areas of South Carolina, specifically along the coast in northern Charleston County, and in the interior along the Santee-Wateree drainage Trinkley 1981b, 1981c; Stuart 1975).

Chronological Position

Late Woodland, Early/Middle Mississippian periods (ca. AD 700-AD 1400). At Mattassee Lake Santee Simple Stamped is stratigraphically later than the Deptford and Cape Fear types in the and excavation blocks (see Background discussion). A total of six radiocarbon determinations, four from and two from 38BK246 specifically date the ware at Mattassee Lake. The six dates range from AD 810 to AD 1340, with an average age of AD 1087. The ware clearly succeeds a fabric impressed ware identified as Cape Fear series at Mattassee Lake, which is dated by another six determinations to between AD 520 to AD 710 (x = AD 638). Possible contemporaneity with Mississippian period complicated stamped wares is indicated at the Walnut Grove and Awendaw shell mounds (Trinkley 1981b, 1981c) and at Mattassee Lake.


Anderson et al. 1982; Griffin (1945); Stuart (1975); Trinkley (1981b; 1981c; 1981d)