Day 3- Plate Party: Here a Ware, There a Ware...
Ceramics, the plates we use everyday for meals and drink may eventually tell the historians who studied us in the future a lot about our everyday lives, class categorization, chronological dating of cities and towns, and whether we used our ceramics for purely utilitarian purposes or for high-end dining. One of the many jobs which fall under archaeologists today is having the the ability to form multiple hypothesis, statements, and inferences about a community based on the artifacts found in the outlying areas. Here at Monticello, I learned how simple ceramics can allow the team of archaeologists here to narrow down the timeline of the various settled communities of overseers and slaves, but also to separate the differences between two nearby communities (in social ranking, economic income, cleaning habits, and more), only by observing and knowing the different kinds of ceramics found in that site over the years of occupation and outgrowth.
This morning's lecture would be the foundation on which we would begin to build our own personal archaeology resources, Ms. Lindsay Bloch a historical archaeologist who specializes in the coarse earthenwares and ceramics of the Chesapeake region, along with Ms. Beth Sawyer the head Monticello Archaeological Analyst, spoke to the archaeology field school on the often unrecognized importance ceramics can play in the field. When discussing ceramics there are three categories we pay attention to: earthenwares (divided into coarse earthenwares, delft or tin-enameled earthenwares, and refined earthenwares), Stoneware, and Porcelain. Within these three basic categories, are multiple sub-categories, and within the sub-categories, even more sub-categories, and each of these categories are used to narrow down the exact dates in which a certain dig site was positively settled by a type of community.
Beginning with the category of earthenwares, we began discussing the coarse earthenwares which date back to the 1600 B.C.E. and are often Native American or Colonoware (made by slaves and Native Americans) if found on Monticello dig sites (located in the Piedmont region). The purpose of learning about the multiple ware types, falls to the fact that we need to be able to recognize these ceramics when they have been covered in dirt and eroded by natural elements for decades (even hundreds of years), so as archaeologists we have to be able to recognize the glazing and clay-type to move forward with classification and chronological dating techniques afterwards. Earthenware (includes Colonoware) is hand-built and shows multiple natural inclusions (material used in the clay between the interior and exterior surfaces, i.e. mica, sand), surfaces erode very easily over time, and has more influence from Native and African ceramics rather than European. This type of ceramic is most often found in the Chesapeake sites of Virginia, for example Williamsburg, rather than the Piedmont region.
Within the category of coarse earthenwares are Redware, Buckley, and North Midland Slipware. Each of these sub-categories are able to be successfully identified in the field, after years of erosion and natural decay due to the various characteristics belonging to each individual ware type. Redware (so named due to the red or pink coloration depending on the iron content in the clay) has a lead-glaze on one exterior, obvious ridges from being made on a manual throwing wheel, and was readily available by the American colonial time period (Date range, DR: 1600-1800). Buckley is named for Buckley, Wales, the geological region with lead clays, is based on a clay paste and had a lead-glaze, with visible layers of red clay or white clay (the combination makes a stronger pot), and contains rocks and clay, giving it a literally coarse feeling (DR: 1720-1775). North Midland Slipware is so named due to the slipped decorations on the ceramic (made by mixing clay with water and painting design), this design process is sometimes created with a press molding system, especially on larger flatware and tablewares, and often have a cobble (pie crust-like edges) rim (DR: 1670-1795).
Moving on from these coarse earthenwares, we transition into the refined earthenwares, the only difference between the two categories is the amount of inclusions found in the clay, refined has less inclusions than coarse. Within the refined category is Delft, Wheildonware, Creamware, Pearlware, and Whiteware. Delft is made with a tin glaze (tin enamel) which sits up on the surface, may have inclusions, and will often have a Chinese-inspired decoration (chinoiserie) visible as a hand-painted blue design in the underglaze (DR: 1600-1802, drops off by the Revolution). Wheildonware has mixed colorings, clouded or tortoise shell-like appearance of multiple colors, and has molded decorations of dot, diaper and basket decorations, or the brown and creamy (lead-glaze) white tortoise shell decoration (DR: 1740-1775). Creamware was commonly made by Wheildon and Wedgwood through use of press molding technology, which allowed for mass manufacture, designed rim patterns include a scalloped edge, a royal pattern (Queensware), was lead-glazed and can have polychrome hand-painted decorations after firing and then fired again (due to this- the decorations feel raised), a technique known as transfer printing was also frequently used to allow a very fine level of detail of decoration but leave a stipple or line marks from the copper used to transfer the design (DR: 1762-1820). Pearlware gives off a blueish-green tint and may have pooled glazed on bottom rim, reflects the fashion of chinoiserie (attempts in ceramic making to get closer and closer to the Chinese porcelain quality from China), both hand-painted and transfer printed designs, has shell edge designed rims (very popular on pearlware) or scalloped edges with painted rims (blue and green are most common), teawares may have polychrome decorations in the form of dendritic (tree-like) motifs, pinwheel patterns, willow patterns which consist of an island with three people standing on a bridge, a boat on the water, and a pair of songbirds, and a wild rose pattern (DR: 1775-1830). Whiteware (ironstone) often have an alkaline glaze and are very white, not cream colored, the designs are most often transfer printed, rather than hand-painted (DR: post 1820).
Going from earthenwares into stonewares, the ceramic import switches focus as well, going from mainly England to both Germany and England and are not porous (permeable to water and other liquids), this category includes Westerwald, British brown, Staffordshire, American Stonewares, and White Salt-Glaze Stoneware. Westerwald is a German salt-glazed stoneware with a very dense clay body, light to medium grey in color, often decorated with stamped flower motifs and other abstract designs filled in with cobalt blue, visible "chatter" marks from the potter's tools are often evident on the exterior surface (DR: post 1600-c.1775; blue and purple, 1650-c.1725). British brown are brown (hence the name) salt-glazed vessels, including Bristol-glazed bottles (tan-colored bottles covered in two glazes, one clear, the other pale yellow), developed by Amatt and Powell pottery in Bristol (DR: 1835-1915). . British brown also includes Fulham salt-glazes stoneware which is characterized by its salmon colored interior and are dipped in iron oxide (brown) which often covers only the upper half of the body (DR: 1671-1800). British brown includes Nottingham as well, a brown stoneware with a lustrous or metallic brown slipped exterior and has rustication (tiny fragments of clay applied to exterior surfaces) is a common decorative technique, and a thin layer of white slip can been seen in the cross-section between the brown exterior and the tan clay body (DR: 1683-1810). The Staffordshire brown is virtually identical to the Nottingham stoneware minus the presence of the underlying white slip (DR: 1700-1800). White Salt-Glazed Stoneware can be dipped or slipped, each have a nearly white clay body, molded vessel rims, with various distinctive rim designs, most common being the sprigged decoration, overglazed polychrome colors are also used in White Salt-Glazed Stoneware (DR: 1715-1805). American Stoneware may be a glossy brown known as an Albany slip, some with salt-glaze and some with Alkaline glaze, with simple floral or stylized motifs hand-painted or stenciled in cobalt blue, William Rogers of Yorktown, VA (1720-1750) produced stoneware in the Chesapeake region (DR: 1720-pres.)
Covering both earthenwares and stonewares, brings us to Porcelain, the most expensive and high-class tableware available during the American Colonial period. Chinese porcelain is the main category we focus on here at Monticello sites, due to the fact that it accounts for nearly all of the porcelain found on colonial and early Federal period archaeological sites. After the Revolution, the hard-past Continental porcelain made its way across the ocean to American, where it boomed to popularity with its beautiful designs. Chinese porcelain is composed of kaolin clay and petuntse (a finely ground feldspathic rock), producing a very hard paste body that is white in color and very glossy, with the feldspathic glazes causing a bluish tint. In the blue underglaze, painted floral and landscape designs are most common, with the cobalt blue ranging from dark to medium light hues, overglaze colors vary from red, black, green, pink, to pale green (DR: defined dates made by decorative technique used, post 1600).
Believe it or not, after this lecture we continued on into the field for the day, continuing with the excavation of Site 8 and our individual quadrats. On our dig we were able to close our A Horizon (top soil), graph the quadrat (including all cobbles and pebbles), and begin to get down to our next context, which we believe to be the first layer of a historical plowzone. Among the artifacts we found today were large sections of DGBG (dark green bottle glass), porcelain which was a big find for Site 8, refined earthenwares, more wrought nails, and a portion of a copper belt buckle, which the TAs loved! Tomorrow is supposed to begin a few days of rain due to the tropical storm Andrea, so hopefully we will still get our chance in the field to dig some more, stay tuned!