Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Comparing two pastes: San Marcos up top, St. Johns below

Day 2 – Unglazed Earthenware

Part 1: Prehistoric

On Day 2 we spent the first hour looking at prehistoric sherds of Northeast Florida.  The two more prevalent Timucuan types are St. Johns and San Marcos.  They were made by Native people who lived in this area more than 3,000 years ago. 

 St. Johns (AD 900 - 1250/1300)

Beginning around 900 AD the Timucuan started making St. Johns Pottery.  The most obvious feature is the texture, very sold and chalky.  Chalky texture is result of sponge spicules found in the clay.  No obvious aggregate is observed in the clay.  From 3,000 BC to 500 AD pottery in this area was plain and sand tempered, but ca. 500 AD they started making check stamped as well.  Why did they start stamping?  Could be to increase the surface area so vessels could hold heat longer.  Mary Herron asked the question and had the UF Physics department cut stamped vs plain and measured rate at which heat was lost.  They found the rate much slower in stamped samples.  Could also be stamping made the surface more tactile, easier to hold. 

San Marcos (AD 1625-1650 - 1702* ending dates are tentative)

San Marcos pottery (also known as Altamaha when found in Georgia) is assigned to the Guale people from coastal regions of South Carolina and north Georgia.  Their pottery is markedly different from Timucua. San Marcos pottery is thick but heavily tempered, gritty, and rough with lots of decoration.  They sometimes used sand and broken up shell in the temper.  The reddish treatment found on some sherds is indicative of firing process, where there was more air in open firing pits.  Decoration includes stamping, punctuate, whole away but also plain and stamped.  Overall San Marcos is heavier, denser, harder, grittier, with sand and shell.
Chunky San Marcos on top.

Timucua traded with Guale around 1500 AD, and St Johns pottery is also found in Guale region.  While looking at pottery found between the regions may lead you to think they were trading pots, more likely they were trading goods contained in the pots.   

For more information on prehistoric ceramics in Florida, check out Florida Museum of Natural History's Ceramic Technology Laboratory.  Or you can read more in free digital version of these articles assigned for class: 

Refining the Ceramic Chronology of Northeast Florida

Check back next week for second installment of Unglazed Earthenware (Part 2: Olive Jars)!

Other posts in the #ceramics101 series (will provide link as they are posted):
Week 1 - introduction
Week 2 - Unglazed and coarse earthenware: Part 1 Prehistoric; Part 2 Olive Jars; Part 3 European
Week 3 - Slipware and lead-glazed pottery
Week 4 - Majolica- Morisco tradition
Week 5 - Majolica- Italianate tradition
Week 6 - Majolica- Mexico City tradition
Week 7 - Majolica- Puebla tradition
Week 8 - Delft & Faience
Week 9 - Porcelain
Week 10 - Refined Earthenware
Week 11 - Stoneware

Text and images: Sarah Miller, FPAN staff using notes from Dr. Deagan's Fall 2012 Historic Ceramic Analysis class at Flagler College.  Please note any errors and inaccuracies are mine.  Endless thanks to Dr. Kathleen Deagan to giving her blessing to this blog project last year.  


Deagan, Kathleen and David Hurst Thomas (eds)
2009   From Santa Elena to St. Augustine: Indigenous Ceramic Variability (A.D. 1400 - 1700).  Proceedings of the Second Caldwell Conference.  New York: American Museum of Natural History.

Ashley, Keith
2008  Refining the Ceramic Chronology of Northeast Florida.  Florida Anthropologist Vol 61 issue 3-4: 123-132. 

Florida Museum of Natural History, Digital Type Collection, Historical Archaeology (

Deagan, K. A. 2002 Artifacts of the Spanish Colonies of Florida and the Caribbean 1500-1800.Volume 1: Ceramics and Glassware.  Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press (Volume 1). (paper). 

Noel Hume, Ivor 1980 A Guide to Artifacts of Colonial America. New York: Knopf.

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