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Walls Engraved Pottery

Located within the northwest corner of the great state of Mississippi is DeSoto County, where there was a town that was given an early Indian name of Alpika.  The village was renamed, in 1906, as the town of Walls in honor of an American Civil War soldier and area resident, Captain June Walls.  Later his name was applied to one of the most beautiful designs of ancient Indian ceramics every made  -  Walls Engraved Pottery.
Walls pottery is believed to have been mostly produced during the last three hundred years of the circa AD 1000-1700 Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.  Vessel types that were created during the Walls phase include bowls, short necked bottles and globular as well as carinated jars that were all usually made of well burnished Bell Plain ceramics.  Just exactly where the natives got the inspiration for the various shapes of their earthenware is not known but most theories are that the forms came from the gourds that they grew and consumed.  The artistic patterns on these ceramic containers are based primarily on circular and sinuous fine line engravings on the exterior of the vessel bodies.  There are curvilinear bands of cross hatched spirals, diamonds and triangles that are often contrasted with narrow and plain groups of these etchings.  And while simple undulating and annular lines and cross hatched narrow cut channels are the most commonly seen decorative techniques on Walls pottery, free style embellishments such as humans, birds,  piasas (winged snake/cats), swastikas, imbricate patterns and zoomorphic ornamentations do occur.  Among of the more strange motifs that were more rarely engraved on Walls pottery are today called “war trophies” and which include severed hands, feet and heads along with miscellaneous disarticulated human bones. 
The belief, at this time, is that Walls engraved vessels have a direct relationship to the pottery made in Moundville, Alabama.  In fact the similarities of Walls and Moundville vessels are so remarkable that one might believe that the natives living along the Mississippi River and the Black Warrior River in Alabama were regular visitors with one another so as to study regional pottery making.  And maybe this happened.  The general opinion is that the Moundville civilization thrived from around AD 1000 to about AD 1450.  This could have given the Southern Cult natives living near the Lower Mississippi River in the AD 1400-1700 time period the knowledge of the styles used during those earlier times in central Alabama.  But Walls engraved pottery also has decided links to the various engraving/incising styles of the Caddo Culture located in the territories that would become Texas and Oklahoma as well as more regional Memphis mode of the Walls-Pecan Point Complex.  So just exactly where this motif originated is not completely known or understood.
 Walls engraved pottery is often found in association with other ceramic patterns such as Kent Incised, Fortune Noded and Rhodes incisings as well as various animal effigy vessels.  These were all made and used in the Lower Mississippi River Valley and during the same time period as the Walls type.  The Walls pottery has also been discovered in association with early European trade goods such as glass beads and iron and brass tools and cooking vessels.  This could possibly signify that the DeSoto expedition (circa AD 1542), as well as slightly later traders and explorers, did pass near or through the villages where vessels of this style were being made.  Walls type pottery has been found throughout a large portion of the Lower Mississippi River Valley which could indicate that the natives who fabricated them were extensive travelers and barterers in that region adjacent to the great river.  And that is good since it gave more distribution to this vessel engraving style for us to enjoy today.  We will probably never discern exactly how the style of decoration on these vessels was begun but that is okay.  It is simply another of the reasons why the collecting of Indian artifacts is so stimulating.  The only thing that could be more fun would be if we have even more samples to enjoy of the intricate beauty of Walls Engraved Pottery.
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