Articles

DAN RIVER NET IMPRESSED POTTERY

Ceramic vessels have been produced in the Southeast for over 4,000 years.  The first ones were made in the coastal areas of the current states of South Carolina and Georgia and were vegetation tempered.  As these early pottery artisans learned more about this new craft, the styles and manufacturing techniques changed.  During the late prehistoric through early proto-historic periods in the Carolina-Virginia Piedmont, one of the predominate pottery types is today called Dan River Net Impressed.  It was named for the Dan River which flows through northern central North Carolina and southern Virginia and was obviously net impressed.

Dan River Net Impressed vessels are usually conical shaped with flat or conoidal bases.  There are almost never any loop or strap handles, effigy forms or feet included with this type pottery.  These bowls and jars were made of local red clay tempered with fine sand or crushed quartz.  The tempering medium helped to minimize vessel shrinkage and cracking during the drying and firing processes.  The clay was thoroughly mixed with water and the tempering agent and rolled into long snake-like strips.  These strips were then coiled one on top of another in an ever widening circle until the required width and height was acquired.  The coils were then pinched together to solidify the vessel body into one single and strong contiguous unit.  The interior would have then been burnished using smooth river rocks while the exterior walls were textured by pressing a woven or knotted fishing net into the still soft clay.  This helped to unify the individual coils and make the surface easier to grip.  Some of these rare vessels clearly show the impressions of the knots used in making the nets.

This style of pottery most probably dates from about AD 1500 to about AD 1700 and has been found along many streams in the Piedmont along with the Dan.  It is very rare to find whole intact ceramic vessels in the Piedmont because the clay soil is so hard and difficult to dig.  Because of this the pottery is rather shallowly buried in the ground and intensive tractor plowing for almost a hundred years has broken most of these vessels.  The collector who owns an unbroken one is very lucky to be the custodian of a rare piece of early America – the Dan River Net Impressed Pottery.

 

REFERENCES:

 

Coe, Joffre L. and Ernest Lewis                                 1952

            “Prehistoric Pottery of the Eastern United States”,  ARCHAEOLOGY OF

            EASTERN NORTH AMERICA

Coe, Joffre L.                                                              1964

            “The Formative Cultures of the Carolina Piedmont”,  TRANSACTIONS OF THE

            AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY

Fisher, William                                                            n.d.

            “Pottery”,  OCCASIONAL PUBLICATION NO. 1, THE PIEDMONT

            ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF NC AND SC

Keel, Bennie                                                               1976

            CHEROKEE ARCHAEOLOGY