A Pottery Chronology for the Sandhills

Pottery fragments (sherds) are one of the most common artifacts found on precontact archaeological sites. Since the shapes of pots and the techniques Native people used to decorate their pottery changed through time, archaeologists can use pottery sherds to create a timeline of pottery types. Soil stratigraphy, other artifacts, and radiocarbon dates associated with each type of sherd help archaeologists assign dates to the pottery types. Through the years, researchers working in North Carolina have developed ceramic sequences for the Mountains, the Piedmont, the Sandhills, and the Coastal Plain. All of the ceramic types described below have been found on archaeological sites here at Fort Bragg.

Early Woodland (2200 BC – 400 BC)

Stallings Series (2200BC - 1100 BC)
Stallings pottery appears in North Carolina around 4,000 years ago. Stallings is tempered with Spanish moss or yucca fibers and decorated with simple designs such as finger pinching, or river cane reed, finger nail, or shell punctations (made by poking the pointed end of a periwinkle or similar shell into the wet clay). Stallings pottery has been found at several sites at Fort Bragg.

Thom’s Creek Series (2000 BC – 1200 BC)
Thom’s Creek pottery, named after a site in Lexington County, South Carolina, is sand tempered and appears in North Carolina around the same time as Stallings. Thom’s Creek pottery is decorated with incised lines (lines carved into the wet clay with a pointed object), river cane reed and shell punctations, simple stamping (linear lines carved on a wooden paddle), and finger pinching. Examples of Thom’s Creek pottery were found at site 31CD810 on Fort Bragg.

New River Series (2000 BC – 300 BC)
Archaeologists associate New River pottery with the Early Woodland period. It was originally defined in the 1970s by archaeologist Thomas Loftfield based on his work on the North Carolina coast. New River pottery is tempered with coarse sand and is usually fabric impressed or cord marked. These types of decorations are made by pressing a paddle wrapped with a cord or fabric against the wet clay pot. Occasionally archaeologists find a type of New River pottery with net impressed or simple stamped designs.

Middle Woodland (400 BC – 800 AD)

Yadkin (900 BC – 700 AD)
Yadkin pottery was originally described by archaeologist Joffre Coe from his work at the Doershuck site. One of its distinctive characteristics is its crushed rock temper. Yadkin pottery is decorated with fabric impressed, cord marked, and linear check stamped designs. The check stamped decoration is created by pressing a carved wooden paddle against the wet clay pot. Examples of this type of pottery have been recovered from a number of sites at Fort Bragg including 31CD919.

Deptford (600 BC – 200 AD)
Deptford ceramics, introduced to North Carolina around 600 BC, originated in coastal Georgia and Florida and spread north. Deptford pottery has sand temper and usually is decorated with check stamped designs. The checked pattern is carved on wooden paddles and applied to the wet clay pot.

Cape Fear (400 BC – 400 AD)
Cape Fear pottery was first described in the 1970s by archaeologist Stanley South during his work in southeastern North Carolina. Cape Fear pottery is distinguished by its sand temper. This pottery is decorated with cord-wrapped or fabric-wrapped paddles. This type of pottery has been recovered from numerous sites at Fort Bragg including 31CD919 and 31 CD 924.

Hanover I Series (400 AD – 800 AD)
Archaeologist Stanley South also identified this pottery type during his 1970s archaeological investigations in southeast North Carolina. Hanover pottery is easily identified by its grog temper (made from crushed pottery or pieces of fired clay). This pottery type is decorated with cord- or fabric-wrapped paddles or simply smoothed. Occasionally archaeologists find examples decorated with net impressions or checked or simple stamped designs. Hanover pottery has been found at many sites on Fort Bragg including 31CD898, 31CD919, and 31CD924.

Late Woodland (800 AD – 1500 AD)

Hanover II Series (800 AD – 1500 AD)
Indian potters continued to make grog tempered pottery in the Late Woodland period. Archaeologists distinguish Hanover II pottery from the earlier Hanover I pottery of the Middle Woodland by the other artifacts that are found associated with this ceramic type.

Pee Dee (1000 AD – 1500 AD)
Pee Dee is a Mississippian culture that appears in North Carolina around 1200 AD. The best expression of Pee Dee culture is found at Town Creek Indian Mound. Pee Dee ceramics are decorated with complicated curved and square designs created with carved wooden paddles or simply left plain with a smooth polished surface. Sometimes rosettes or punctations are present around the shoulder of the pot. To date there is only sparse evidence of Pee Dee occupations at Fort Bragg.