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Ceramics and social interaction in the Lowcountry.

My friend Jon Marcoux is currently leading an archaeological field school in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Yesterday he did his first-ever blog post over at the Lord Ashley Site blog, and a fine post it was.

Amongst the topics discussed in his post are the ceramic sherds shown below. While the place of manufacture is unclear, the style is typical of ceramics found 300+ miles to the northwest of the Lowcountry. It has long been known that the mid- to late 17th century was a time of massive population movement in the Southeast, but finds like this one help researchers ask the kind of questions necessary to fill in the details.

McKee Island Cord Marked

McKee Island sherds excavated at the Lord Ashley Site.

In her June 12th post, Katherine Pemberton gave us a look at the sherd uncovered at the Lord Ashley Site which is shown below. The provenience of this sherd is much clearer. It is a piece of Barbadian redware.* It’s presence is not altogether a surprise given the role of Barbadian planters in the establishment of the Carolina Colony.†

Barbadian redware sherd from the Lord Ashley site.

A common critique of historical archaeology is that it costs time, money, and sweat in the process of learning what we already know. But as someone who once had a job which had me regularly hanging around my hometown cop shop, I have a real respect for forensic evidence. Sometimes it leads you in directions you wouldn’t have gone otherwise.

Matthew Timothy Bradley


*See Handler, Jerome S., and Frederick W. Lange. Plantation slavery in Barbados: an archaeological and historical investigation. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978.

†See Bull, Kinloch. “Barbadian settlers in early Carolina: historiographical notes.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 96, no. 4 (October 1995): 329–39. doi:10.2307/27570122.



  1. jonmarcoux says:

    We (the public) would welcome any musings you might have on the Yuchi, Shawnee, Koasati, Chisca, or any other lesser known American Indian groups thought to inhabit the interior of modern day Eastern Tennessee, Northern Alabama, etc.!


    • Mateo says:

      Musing in the form of a question: What do you think of the notion that thinking on the scale of the Ohio River basin might be more helpful than thinking of these kinds of things as questions of Southeastern archaeology/ethnology? The Madisonville site in southwest Ohio is a place where Southeast, Southwest, and the St. Lawrence seem to meet, for example.

      I rummaged around in my old notes and found that Kaskinampo would seem to just be a descriptive term – kaskí ‘warrior,’ námpon ‘to be so many’ (from p. 4 of Kimball’s Koasati grammar).

      Also wanted to add that my suspicion is that the Yuchi and the Chisca were completely different groups. Unless Chisca was just a blanket term for “troublesome Indians.” I believe that Brett told me once that a group of Chisca show up at a French mission in Illinois in the early 18th century.

      Helpful at all? Or did I just muddle the waters?


      • jonmarcoux says:

        Great point sir! I personally am getting bogged down trying to tie this potting tradition to specific groups- ones who are doubly hard to pin down because of their “shadowy” presence in the historic record and given the social dynamics (or chaos) of the period.The period was turbulent, so muddy waters is what we should expect. Looking at Madisonville and Caborn Welborn pottery, unfortunately, has not provided the smoking gun I was looking for. Perhaps this suggests that I should be looking for a knife? or monkey wrench?


        • Mateo says:

          “A hundred years from now, white archeologists are going to open that coffin, find it empty, and wonder what it all means.” – Sherman Alexie (in the latest New Yorker)

          I’m not a ceramics guy, but I hunted around for you online a bit. Here’s the only type I found with a handle, though it doesn’t look to match your other features. Might the Blackmon ceramics be a suitably mixed bag?


        • jonmarcoux says:

          Yes Blackmon phase definitely fits! Indulge me this bit of old school culture history….The neat thing I think is going on here is that this shell-tempered cord marked tradition marks a diaspora of folks out of the Tennessee R. valley and perhaps Ohio R. valley. I am not the first to point this out, but the appearance of this type in what become Creek towns is contemporaneous with Spanish reports of the adoption of refugee groups from the same area. Thus, it may be that the proximate source of the shell-tempered pottery at Lord Ashley is the Blackmon phase folks either from the Macon area, the Columbus, Ga area, or from Palachacolas Town in Hampton County, SC. Given the timing, however, the proximate source may also be the Ohio or Tennessee Valleys. I love the ambiguity!


        • Mateo says:

          I love the ambiguity!

          Then you are definitely in the right line of work! ☻

          Town in Hampton County, SC. Given the timing, however, the proximate source may also be the Ohio or Tennessee Valleys.

          The 1721 version of the Barnwell/Hammerton map at Yale has a settlement labeled <Savanoes> (presumably a Shawnee settlement) near the mouth of a tributary of the Chattahoochee. The c. 1744 version of the map at the Hargrett Library has the same(?) settlement labeled <Hogologas>, which is a poor transcription of the Shawnee name for the Yuchi. I mention that just because my intuition is that the Shawnee and Yuchi might not have been in the Southeast proper at the beginning of the 17th century.


  2. Mateo says:

    I guess my biggest musing is sort of theoretical (or maybe methodological? analytical? not sure…). And that is that I feel like the ghost of culture-historical archaeology hangs over the related questions. At the 2007 SEAC I asked a gruff but lovable UT faculty member if he had ever worked on a Koasati site in Tennessee and he said words to the effect of, “I don’t know if there are any Koasati sites in Tennessee!” Well, the language he used was actually a bit more colorful than that.

    If I remember correctly, Jason Jackson has told me that it seems that the Yuchi and Shawnee have a long-running relationship. There is no guarantee that it predates the Contact period, but that fact does seem interesting. There is a Finnish PhD named Sami Lakomäki who wrote a dissertation on the Shawnee. I know he has a chapter in a collection, but I don’t know if his dissertation is being or has been turned into a book.

    I have some other thoughts. Don’t know if they are useful, but let me gather ‘em and I will take a shot at writing them down somewhere this weekend.


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