Mattassee Lake Site

The Mattassee Lake Sites: Archaeological Investigations Along the Lower Santee River in the Coastal Plain of South Carolina

David Anderson editor. 1982, Commonwealth Associates, Jackson, Michigan

The Mattassee Lake sites- 38BK226, 229, and 246- are located along the bluff overlooking the Santee River Floodplain in northern Berkeley County. They cover an area almost a kilometer long, and were extremely rich and dense. Artifacts from the Early Archaic through the Historic Period were recovered, but ceramics will be the focus here. The reader should refer to the report for a full discussion of the orthoquartzite quarries, projectile points, ethnobotanical analysis and the other components of this report. In the foreword (pg v) Anderson points out that, at that time, there was really nothing to refer to for a central South Carolina chronology. Thus this is an important and fundamental work, and is one that virtually everyone references. With the passage of more than 25 years and the growth of the available database some refinements and corrections can be made.

In Chapter 8 David Anderson reports on his pottery analysis. I will briefly summarize each titled section. Please note that this section contains numerous data tables which are used to build his arguments. This is data that may be useful to pottery researchers, and should be referred to often.

Introduction. Altogether 27,354 sherds were found, including 20,194 that came from three block excavations. Ceramics were not evenly distributed, and the blocks were focused on concentrations.

Research Orientation of the Ceramic Analysis: Taxonomic Considerations and Sequence Definition. His primary considerations are typology and chronology. In the introduction he discusses the pottery from adjacent states, and attempts at sequencing SC pottery, pointing out problems and ambiguities that have still not been fully addressed. This is not for a lack of effort, as the entire collection was examined at a basic level, and a special sample of some 1,208 sherds were subjected to microscopic and macroscopic multivariate analysis.

Research Orientation of the Ceramic Analysis: Technological and Functional Considerations. Here he introduces vessel based analysis that will allow occupation density and duration to be considered. Other evidence for use and manufacture are also discussed.

Methods of Analysis and Classification. Initially he tried sorting them into existing types, some of which were clear, but he found that many could not be made to fit. The sample he analyzed was judgemental, intended to include all variants possible, rather than a random sample which would be more statistically valid. The analysis techniques are discussed in detail, and are heavily documented. Variables are discussed below. He performed increasingly complex statistical tests to determine affinities and established a provisional taxonomy that was then used to re-sort the entire assemblage. At this point all rims (754) were pulled and examined in detail using the same techniques as with the special sample.

Temporal Ordering of the Ceramic Assemblage. He uses stratigraphy, carbon dates and the crossdating of known types to order the sequence. The stratigraphic dating seems weak, as the vast majority of the sherds were found in the top 30cm of soil. These were excavated in 5cm levels however, and it is undeniable that Thoms Creek is a little deeper, on average, than Cape Fear, Santee and Deptford, for instance. On the other hand, Cape Fear is found in all levels.

For cross dating he refers to Stallings (2500-1000BC), Thoms Creek Reed Punctate (2300-1000BC), Awendaw Finger Pinched (1900-900BC), Refuge Dentate Stamped (1000-800BC). He groups three complicated stamped wares- Savannah, Pee Dee, and Ashley- and dates them to AD1200-1700. The Refuge date is the most problematic, as it is actually an estimated age based on superposition rather than empirical dates. The dates for the complicated stamped wares are questionable also, as Savannah, for instance, is now thought to date as early as AD750 (Thomas et al 2009), and all three phases of Pee Dee at Town Creek and associated sites at least, span the 1000-1500AD period (Boudreaux 2007). Ashley ceramics begin at an undetermined date, and extend to at least 1700, but even now, 40 years after Stanley South originally named the type, it has not been formally described. Recent, as yet unpublished work has obtained a series of dates for Ashley that range from 1450-1667. South's original date, when re-calibrated, is 1680.

Fifteen carbon dates were obtained. He used the Ralph, Michael, and Han (1973) correction method, which has since been superceded. This is discussed in a separate chapter (11, pg 354). One date appears to accurately place Thoms Creek Plain in the 3110+/-185 BP range (uncorrected). The correction places this in the 3460-3480BP range. Both dates agree with other Thoms Creek dates for the area (Minim Island, for instance) and appear reasonable. Six samples between 520 and 720 AD were associated with Cape Fear Fabric Impressed and cordmarked wares, while another six dating between 810 and 1340AD give an age range for Santee Simple Stamped. These dates were recalibrated with the (today) latest version of the Calib 5.1 program. The revised dates tend to be 40-60 years younger

Radiocarbon Dates- Mattassee Lakes

Site Number

Lab Number

Associated Ceramics

Radiocarbon Age BP

Calib 5.1 Range, 1 sigma, AD

Calib 5.1 Range, 1 sigma, BC

Calib 5.1 intercept BC

Calib 5.1 intercept, AD

Original Corrected Date

Original Uncorrected Radiocarbon Age AD/BC

38BK229

Diacarb# 1844

Thoms Creek Plain

3110+/-185

 

1607-1121

1364

 

1470BC

1160BC

38BK226 Fea 29

DIACARB# 1834

Cape Fear, Fabric Impress

1430+/-70

562-661

 

 

611

570AD

520AD

38BK226 Fea 29

DIACARB# 1833

Cape Fear, Fabric Impress

1390+/-155

437-851

 

 

644

600AD

560AD

38BK226 Fea 28

DIACARB# 1836

Santee, Simple Stamped

1300+/-55

662-771

 

 

715

660AD

650AD

38BK226 Fea 14

DIACARB# 1839

Cape Fear, cord

1260+/-60

671-855

 

 

763

690AD

690AD

38BK226 Fea 28

DIACARB# 1835

Cape Fear, Fabric Impress

1250+/-55

681-857

 

 

769

710AD

700AD

38BK226 Fea 36 MATTASSEE

DIACARB# 1837

Cape Fear, Fabric Impress

1240+/-60

688-863

 

 

775

715AD

710AD

38BK226

DIACARB# 1841

Santee, Simple Stamped

1130+/-55

784-987

 

 

885

850AD

820AD

38BK226

DIACARB# 2115

Santee, Simple Stamped

1140+/-115

774-1013

 

 

894

810AD

810AD

38BK226

DIACARB# 1840

Santee, Simple Stamped

910+/-70

1037-1259

 

 

1138

1050AD

1040AD

38BK246

DIACARB# 1845

Santee, Simple Stamped

760+/-110

1156-1388

 

 

1272

1210AD

1190AD

38BK226

DIACARB# 1836

Santee, Simple Stamped

630+/-65

1290-1394

 

 

1342

1310AD

1320AD

38BK226

DIACARB# 1838

Santee, Simple Stamped

610+/-55

1300-1398

 

 

1349

1330AD

1340AD

38BK229

DIACARB# 1843

Santee, Simple Stamped

360+/-125

1433-1657

 

 

1545

1480AD

1590AD

 

The three dating methods generally agree and complement each other. The replacement of fabric marked wares by simple stamped wares is clear both stratigraphically and empirically, for instance.

General Physical Characteristic of the Ceramic Assemblage. First he discusses color. The majority of the assemblage was light, though color ranged from very light to black. He notes interior and exterior color by type, on an assemblage basis, not at the sherd level. Thus 55 sherds had light brown exteriors and 69 had light brown interiors and so on. This does not distinguish core color, as some analysts prefer, and is fairly general, but sherd color is so widely variable that this is not an attribute to fret over.

Next temper/aplastic inclusion variables are considered. He says that the major, previously defined temper types - “fiber, fine sand, grit (coarse sand), clay/grog, and non-tempered” (pg 222)- were observed. Unambiguous (his word, not mine) inclusion types included fiber (Stallings), clay/grog (Wilmington and Refuge), and coarse sand/grit (Yadkin-like). Note that he is not using the Wentworth scale. He notes that for Wilmington, Cape Fear, and Yadkin-like wares paste recipe is the primary difference, as all three types use the same surface decorations. There is considerable variation internally, but as few wares were “characterized by distinctive and/or uniform constituents” (pg225). Refuge was found to be highly uniform, with over 90% containing only one primary inclusion type. Rose quartz sand was seen only in Cape Fear Fabric Impressed and Deptford Linear Check. This was noted at Minim Island also. A higher percentage of coarse quartz inclusions were seen in Cape Fear and Santee than in the later wares. In terms of minor inclusions the wares are all similar, suggesting local clay sources, and pointing out the significance of aplastics in terms of time and taxonomy.

Internal surface treatments include numerous variants but the vast majority were plain and well smoothed (78.6%). Sherds with broad, irregular smoothing marks were next most common (8.8%), followed by shell scraped (4.2%). Anderson sees a number of cases where internal treatment occurs exclusively on one type or another, and feels it is an important marker.

Thickness is valuable also, as earlier wares tend to be thinner- with the exception of Deptford Linear Check Stamped wares, which were distinctive in their thickness. Thickness is an important diagnostic however and correlates with other variables to define types.

Rim variables include form, lip treatment and orientation of decoration to the rim. One trend that was identified was that Thoms Creek tended strongly to have incurvate rims, where orifices tended to expand in later wares, with more excurvate rims. This begins with Refuge and becomes more marked with time. He thinks this may be tied to vessel form and stone boiling. Lip form includes rounded, flat, thickened rounded and flat, tempered and “other.” Rounded and flat were most common. This appears to be significant, as Thoms Creek, Wilmington, and Cape Fear tended to be round, while Deptford rims were more often flat. Rim treatments include smoothed, incised, dowel stamped (in wide and narrow variants), paddle stamped (same as exterior decoration), and punctate. The vast majority were smoothed, but interestingly, simple stamped rims from Thoms Creek, Refuge, Deptford and Santee all tended to be stamped on the interior of the rim. Decoration orientation was measured in degrees, with 0 being parallel, and 90 perpendicular. Some patterning was clear. Punctates on Thoms Creek were parallel. Deptford simple stamped tended to be parallel, where Santee tended to be at an angle, with the majority between 30 and 120.

His final variable is sherd weight, which is used to infer post depositional disturbance, such as trampling.

Specific Taxonomic and Temporal Considerations. In this section he introduces the type-variety system in hopes of “streamlining and simplifying the typological morass” (pg 243) that results from researchers applying different type names to identical, or virtually identical wares. The system allows one to build upon and tighten up existing types without dismissing them outright. The type is the overall container, where varieties discuss local variants. This is all done in pursuit of culture-historical identification. He cites Deptford check stamped as an example. Since it covers a large area it is fairly inspecific, but when local variants such as Cartersville are noted, more specific discussions of culture can be approached. Over the next 70 odd pages he discusses his types and varieties. These type descriptions are the basis of the 1996 descriptions found elsewhere at this site.