Archaeology at WWC
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The 2001 spring semester archaeology methods class studied Native American artifacts found at the Warren Wilson Site. Students made and fired their own pottery vessels in order to better understand ceramic technologies. First, students on the archaeology crew collected clay from on campus and lugged it back to the lab. Next, students created vessels using either a coil or a pinch pot method and left them to dry. On the last day of school the class gathered at the archaeology site to fire the vessels and have a cook out.
Traditionally Native Americans collected clay from nearby streams to use for pottery. This clay was dried and sifted clean to get rid of all the natural impurities before a temper was added. The archaeology class did not clean the clay they used but rather left the impurities in the clay as a natural temper.
On the final day of class a fire was started down at the archaeology site at 12:00pm. The pots were placed around the fire close enough to heat slowly before being put in the coals an hour later. Once all the vessels were placed in the coals the fire was built up over them. We let the pots sit in the fire for four hours before taking them out to cool.
Coils had to be smoothed into each other so they would hold together when they dried. Vessels that were not smoothed together fell apart in the fire. Many Native Americans used a paddle with a carved design on it to smooth the coils together while leaving a pretty pattern behind.
We fired over twenty vessels and only two broke during the firing process. Those vessels that were turned upside down and completely covered in coals turned black while those open to the air stayed a lighter brown.