Savannah Complicated Stamped

from David Anderson's type description


The type Savannah Complicated Stamped was originally defined by Caldwell and Waring based on materials recovered from a series of sites in and around the city of Savannah in County, Georgia. From excavations at the Deptford site, the Irene Mound, and other sites in the Savannah area, the ware was recognized as intermediate between the Wilmington and Irene series (Caldwell and Waring 1939b). Additional descriptive information on the ware, and on the Early/Middle Mississippian cultural complex of the same name, can be found in the Irene Mound report (Caldwell and McCann 1941:42-48). The related Wilbanks series is common in northern Georgia, where stratigraphic occurrence between the Etowah and Lamar series has been long documented (Wauchope 1948, 1966; Sears 1950).

The Savannah II (AD 1200-1250) and Savannah III (AD 1250- 1300) phases at the mouth of the river defined by DePratter (1979:lll) are distinguished by the appearance of check stamping and complicated stamping, respectively. Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery is dominated by curvilinear, concentric circle or oval motifs. While there is stratigraphic evidence for this succession at a number of sites, including Irene, the subdivision of Savannah into three 50 year phases appears too restrictive. Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery, for example, the key diagnostic for identifying a Savannah component, occurs in the first seven mound stages at Irene. It is highly unlikely that all of this construction activity occurred within a 50 year period. Likewise, it seems unlikely that the widespread occurrence of both Savannah Check Stamped and Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery in the lower basin reflects no more than a 100 year period. A somewhat broader span for these phases, from ca. AD 1100 to 1200 for Savannah and from AD 1200-1350 for Savannah is suggested.

Early Mississippian (ca. AD 1100-occupations in the middle Savannah Valley are roughly equivalent to the Savannah occupations at the mouth of the river and the Jarrett/Beaverdam phase in the central Piedmont, differing only in the incidence of certain finishes within assemblages. No phase names have been assigned, although the occupations at the Mound group suggest a provisional phase designation for components of this period in the lower interior Coastal Plain along the Savannah. Diagnostic indicators include Savannah Complicated Stamped, Plain, Burnished Plain, Fine Cord Marked, and Check Stamped. The Savannah series materials typically have plain, unmodified rims lacking punctations, rosettes, or nodes. Other finishes that may occur include plain (non-burnished), and, as a minority, cross v-shaped simple stamping (Santee Simple Stamped). The Savannah Check Stamped, Cord Marked, and Burnished Plain types may occur earlier than Savannah Complicated Stamped. Concentric circle motifs dominate the complicated stamped assemblages, with one and two bar diamond Etowah motifs less common.

Using material recovered from eight shell midden sites in northern Charleston County Trinkley 1980a, 1981d: 1981e) has identified and described a complicated stamped ware that he has called Jeremy, that appears to be a local variant of Savannah Complicated Stamped. The ware was first recognized by a local collector, Mr. Donald of McClellanville who called it Jeremy after the Jeremy Island site where appreciable quantities of the material were noted. Trinkley (1980a: 41; 1981d: 10-11) has provided formal type descriptions for Jeremy Complicated Stamped, and has summarized the salient attributes of the ware as follows:

A collection of 138 sherds from the Jeremy type site and 103 sherds from the Oyster Mount were used to define the Jeremy type. The Jeremy Series has a finer paste, containing more clay, than the succeeding Pee Dee pottery. The major surface treatment of the Jeremy Series is complicated stamped, and the collection may be classified into four motifs. The motifs observed include the filfot cross, concentric circles, nested squares, and the arc-angle. Stamp designs are characteristically large to moderate in proportion and the execution is usually bold. Grooves range up to in depth, and 2mm in width and lands average in width. The entire design is not usually visible because of overstamping.

The predominant motifs are variations of the Pee Dee arc-angle. The "owl eye" motif as calls it, is found into the Pee Dee Phase, but is gradually replaced by the filfot cross. Small numbers of the filfot stamp are found in the Jeremy Series. The majority of the Jeremy collection must be classified as miscellaneous, meaning that the stamp was too vague, or the sherd was too small, worn, or overstamped to allow accurate appraisal of the motif. Decoration in the Jeremy Series is rare, although a few examples of notched lips and punctated rims have been found. No examples of nodes, pellets, rosettes, rim fillets or incising have been documented. The typical Jeremy rim has) a straight to nearly vertical profile typical of bowl and jar forms (Trinkley 3-4).

Close similarity with Savannah Complicated Stamped was acknowledged Trinkley 1980a:912; 1981e) but the ware was classified as a separate type, primarily because of perceived differences in design motifs. Jeremy Complicated Stamped was reported as having "a considerable elaboration on the five motifs observed on the Savannah stamps (Caldwell and Waring although the two are closely related" (Trinkley 1980a: 412). Sorting Jeremy from Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery is thus difficult on a sherd by sherd basis.

Sorting Criteria

Complicated stamping dominated by concentric circle motifs, with lesser occurrences of arc-angle, nested square, and filfot cross motifs. Stamp impressions are usually bold, with oveistamping common. The grooves making up the design and typically 2.0-3.0 wide, and about 1.0 mm deep. Interior surfaces aretypically well smoothed or "soapy" and only rarely sandy or gritty in texture. The paste is predominantly fine sand .O-2.0 mm) and clay, with few larger sand inclusions. May be confused with Pee Dee Complicated Stamped and Ashley Complicated Stamped, with which the ware tends to intergrade.


Savannah Complicated Stamped ceramics are found throughout the eastern Georgia Coastal Plain and Piedmont, and are also present in northwest Georgia where they are sometimes described as Wilbanks. The type is also fairly common in the southeastern Coastal Plain of South Carolina, along the Savannah River and in the Sea Island area. Classic Savannah Complicated Stamped pottery appears to be progressively uncommon to the northeast of the Savannah, particularly in the interior; a variant locally described as Jeremy occurs just to the north of Charleston in the Sea Island area.

Chronological Position

Middle Mississippian period (AD 1200-AD 1350). A range from AD 1150 to AD 1300 for the series, and from AD 1250 to AD 1300 for the Savannah Complicated Stamped type, has been advanced (DePratter 1979: 11 1). While possibly accurate for the mouth-of-the-Savannah sequence, the 50 year range suggested for the complicated stamped type appears too limited, and a considerably broader range, from roughly AD 1200-1350 is suggested here (see also Caldwell 1971;Anderson 1994).


Savannah Complicated Stamped: Caldwell and Waring (1939a, 1939b); Caldwell and McCann (1941); Sears (1950); Caldwell (1952, 1971); Wauchope (1948, 1966); Waring Williams (1 Stoltman Hally (1975); (1 99 1 : 88-Trinkley (2) Jeremy variant: Trinkley 198la, b, c, d).