GLEN JOHNSON COLLECTION
HUMBER SITE (22-Co-601)
1, 2. Avenue Polychrome bottles; 3. Nodena Red and White “cat monster” pot; 4. Mississippi Plain “cat monster” rim-rider bowl; 5,6. Bell Plain bat effigy bowl, bat; Avenue Polychrome deer head effigy “teapot”; 7. Avenue Polychrome bottle. 8 Nodena Red and White bottle, Humber site, 22-Co-601, Glen Johnson Collection.
CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI VALLEY CERAMICS
Definitions of vessels forms and decoration types Problems in pottery description and classification Cases: Oliver (Coahoma County, Mississippi) Powell Bayou (Sunflower County, Mississippi) Ellis (Phillips County, Arkansas).
There are 5 relevant vessel forms: 1) the high-shouldered, outcurving rim or Cahokia-form jar, 2) the simple curving shoulder of Hushpuckena-form jar, 3) the angular or Oliver-form jar, 4) the helmet bowl, and 5) the remainder of jars intermediate between the Hushpuckena and Oliver forms or the Hushpuckena and deep flaring rimmed bowl. These vessels can be conceived of as having three potential fields for applied decoration (neck/rim, upper body, and base) separated by several bands that can be defined as boundaries (rim, neck-body junction, and body-base junction). The three fields make up rough thirds of the vessel height and the possible marked boundaries are linear. Bounding lines are incised lines, punctations, and nodes/beads/fillets. The uppermost boundary, the lip, generally receives the most elaboration, which can include morphology (molding, thickening, inclination) and additions (handles, lugs, effigies) in addition to linear treatments.
This Hushpukena form has been shown to be stratigraphically earlier in the Oliver mound construction sequence, probably dating to the late Middle Mississippian interval (i.e. 1300s).
This is an attempt to regularize the comparison of Mississippian ceramics traditionally assigned to the types Barton Incised, Parkin Punctated, Winterville Incised, and Owens Punctated, along with a few minority types also associated with jars.
After defining and recording motifs and elements from decorated jar sherds I will attempt to time-order assemblages through seriation. The results of this will be compared to any radiocarbon dates for specific examples. I will also examine the effect on geography on the distribution of elements, motifs, and combinations.
The treatments subsumed under these types are very general, being 1) rectilinear incising, 2) nail or tooled punctation, 3) curvilinear incising, and 4) incising and punctation combined, respectively.
LMV typology emphasizes decorative treatment and sometimes uses motifs for the definition of varieties, but has occasionally noted bounding lines, for instance, as modes.
The Oliver hearths show the standard Mississippian jar with the helmet bowl to be contemporaries. Both forms have specimens from burials and pits with sooting, indicating both have similar functions. Three items are redundant in the two hearths: the flat based flaring rim bowl, the large jar, and the sooted helmet bowl. All three were apparently used in the fire and presumably functioned in three styles of food preparation. Does the morphological variation of the Oliver jar's necks indicate that the vessels of this assemblage were manufactured over a long time span, that they derive from occupations by unrelated groups separated by perhaps a century, or from contemporaneous groups separated by old divisions. As it generally lacks stratigraphic provenience, it is of limited use to attempt to define sets or morphological assemblages from the 1991 collection. Reconstruction of vessels based on sherds shows a tendency towards the intergrading of jar and bowl forms, but a lesser intergradation in size as measured by rim diameter and volume. Measurable jar sherds (N=11) are at the high end of the continuum, of up to 46 liters capacity, while the largest "helmet" or intermediate bowl/jar is about 3 liters. Jar rim diameters range from 50 to 13 centimeters, while helmet bowls have a narrower range, from 22 to 18 centimeters. The fire cloud pattern observed on many vessels may be a trace of firing technology. Some heavily oxidized, clouded bases however give the impression of resulting from the use of small rocks, blocks of clay, or other materials to raise the vessel over coals. Decoration is one of the main technological, or perhaps more precisely, stylistic, features that has been given emphasis in the analysis of Mississippian collections. It has information to offer besides what is derived from it through the type-variety system. A first step in the analysis of design is consideration of work habits: hardness of clay, handedness, manipulation. If we assume that the aboriginal people of Oliver were predominantly right-handed, it can be surmised that they applied designs with the vessel held upright, working counterclockwise. Mississippian decorations are apparently largely meant to be viewed from above, looking down on or into a vessel. Rim cut-outs, festoons and imbrication, and interior filming all work in this way. Decoration tools have to be inferred as they were apparently mostly perishable (cane, wood, grass), but we know they were numerous and typically used as a stylus. Modeling is only weakly expressed at Oliver. There are 25 decorated vessels in the Harvard collection from the four forms described above: 6 Hushpuckena-form, 8 Oliver-form, 2 helmet bowls, and 6 intermediate form. Summary of Table fits the conventional wisdom: punctation and curvilinear incising are predominantly body treatments, rectilinear incising emphasizes triangles, and appendages generally occur with other decoration on the vessel. The most complex decorative combinations are seen on 61810 (chevrons with fillers/line/perpendicular lines), 61813 (lugs/alternating line-filled triangles/nodes/punctations), and 64273 (punctated lugs/alternating nested arcs/line/punctations).
Using the two sigma ranges for calibrated calendar years, a span of 350 years may be postulated for construction of the earthwork. It seems likely that the mound was built in episodes over only 150 to 200 years between 1300 and 1500. . There are three dates from the Stage III/IV interface associated with the construction of sunken floor, individually set post walled houses and a large Winterville Incised jar fragment (Beta-41704,41703, and 41706). Calibrated intercepts are 1410, 1290, and 1347, with two sigma ranges of 1302-1455, 1240-1398, and 1250-1446, respectively. There are typological reasons to believe that the Oliver and Ellis were at least partially contemporary. Ellis site vessel profiles are typically of the gently curving "Hushpuckena" form. Another characteristic shared by the two sites is the type Winterville Incised, occurring in the guilloche motif. Two examples of one of the curvillinear motifs, the guiloche, occurs on the neck of a large jar and on the shoulder of a very large jar, came from a trash-filled pit at Oliver. Both of these jars have vertical necks meeting the body at a sharp angle (Oliver vessel form), while the large Winterville Incised jar from Ellis has the decoration on the incurving part of a curving wall vessel and the smaller jar has it on the slightly restricted neck (Hushpuckena vessel form). I could not confidently identify any of the Ellis sherds as helmet bowls, however, there are some slightly restricted jars and deep flaring rim bowl sherds that approach the type. There are 16 sherds identified as coming from jars and another 16 probable examples. All are on coarse pastes, although one is finer than usual and may include other tempering agents and another has sparse moderately coarse shell temper. The sixteen jars include five Barton Incised, three Parkin Punctated, and two Winterville Incised. The largest Winterville fragment is reconstructed from sherds from the occupation surface of Stages III/IV. Estimated orifice diameters for the sixteen jar rims are three 10-14 cm, two 15-19 cm, two 2-24, three 25-29 cm, one 30-34 cm, three 35-39 cm, one 40-44 cm, and one 45-49 cm. Lip morphology is variable. There is one example that seems to be an extreme expression of the Memphis rim mode, although it could be an extremely large lug, but perpendicular flanges encircling the entire lip are known from this region, for example a 1.8 cm wide flange on a very large Winterville Incised jar from the Oliver site (Starr 1992). Deep flaring rim beakers from the Walls phase are also similar (Childress 1992). Other appendages associated with jars include a 1.9 cm wide strap handle with two nodes at either the rim or body attachment (only half of the handle was retrieved). A small lunate lug is placed at the inflection point or shoulder of a jar with 15 cm orifice diameter. The smaller (ca. 15 cm orifice diameter) Winterville jar has a broken lug rolled out directly from the squared lip. All jar appendages except the extreme Memphis rim mode come from disturbed contexts; the flanged example is from the only rubble lens recognized in Trench C, probably corresponding to Stages III/IV.
Powell Bayou (22SU516), one of the southern Hushpuckena phase sites, had some salvage work done by an early Mississippi State University (MSU) field school, and I had the opportunity to write up the site while a student there (Starr 1991). Three radiocarbon dates from the lower mound stages indicate construction contemporary with the early episodes at Ellis. The mounds were perhaps comparable in size, although both were badly impacted before investigations began. Jar and flaring rim bowl profiles from Ellis are similar to those from Powell Bayou, and there are a number of other similarities. The larger Powell Bayou collections have more types represented than the Ellis collection does. Pouncey Ridge Pinched, seemingly an extreme variant of aligned Parkin Punctated (var. Castille) is common at Powell Bayou, based on a number of examples in the MSU and Cottonlandia Museum collections, while the most similar material at Ellis have aligned, widely spaced sets of punctations on jar necks. The Powell Bayou collection has examples with rows of similar nail marks on jar necks but these are spaced pinches (the critical difference being whether a single nail was jabbed into the wet clay or whether it was pinched between thumb and finger). Several modes (horizontal lines, rows of punctations or nodes forming the lower boundary of the incised area; line-filled triangles, cross-hatching, plats of vertical and oblique lines) occurring with the type Barton Incised are shared. Rim modifications of bowls are likewise similar: red filming, scalloping, nicks and tooled punctations. Painted materials are well represented in the Powell Bayou collection. The site also offers a little other information besides that derived from ceramics. Triangular points and pebble celts were found, and the structures on the mound, rebuilt many times on a single stage, were predominantly very large wall trench constructions, but one had been built with individually set posts.
HUMBER, COAHOMA Co. MS, Ceramic Terminology: Types, Varieties, Forms, Surface Treatments, Modes, Motifs, Patterns, and Icons
This appendix is intended as an aid to understanding the descriptions of the Humber-McWilliams collection. The lists of definitions and descriptions that follow refer the Humber-McWilliams collection except where stated; the list of terms is not exhaustive for Mississippian collections as a whole.
Ceramic Types and Varieties
The typology used in this report follows that established by the Lower Mississippi Valley Survey (LMS) as first defined by Phillips, Ford, and Griffin (1951) and modified by Phillips (1970).
Addis Plain. Brown (1977:16) reports 2 sherds of var. Greenville and 2 var.unspecified from his 163-sherd surface collection.
Avenue Polychrome. Brown (1977:Table 16) reports 5 vessels of var. Avenue among the 46 he documented. The type site for Avenue Polychrome is the Avenue site (3PH , , ) in Phillips County, Arkansas (Moore 191-).
Barton Incised. Brown (1977:Table 16) reports 1 vessel fragment of var. Barton among the 46 vessels he documented.
Bell Plain. Brown (1977:16) reports 3 sherds of var. Bell and 10 of var. unspecified from his 163-sherd surface collection. He also reports 19 vessels of var. Bell among the 46 he documented (Brown 1977:Table 16).
Carson Red on Buff
Hollywood White. Brown (1977:16) reports 2 sherds of var. Hollywood from his 163-sherd surface collection. This is an extremely rare sherd type; whole vessels with exclusive white slips are so rare its legitimacy as a type has been questioned.
Leland Incised. Brown (1977:Table 16) reports 1 vessel of var. unspecified among the 46 he documented; this is a rim-effigy bowl that could also have been classified as Old Town Red.
Mississippi Plain. Brown (1977:16) reports 126 sherds of var. Neeley’s Ferry from his 163-sherd surface collection. He also reports 10 vessels of var. Neeley’s Ferry among the 46 he documented (Brown 1977:Table 16).
Nodena Red and White. Brown (1977:Table 16) reports 2 vessels of var. Nodena among the 46 he documented.
Old Town Red. Brown reports 4 sherds of var. Old Town, 1 of var. Beaverdam, and 1 of var. St. Pierre from his 163-sherd surface collection. He also reports 3 vessels of var. Old Town and 2 of var. Beaverdam among the 46 he documented (Brown 1977:Table 16).
Parkin Punctated. Brown (1977:16) reports 4 sherds of var. Parkin from his 163-sherd surface collection.
Walls Engraved. Brown (1977:Table 16) reports 2 vessels of var. Hull and 1 of var. unspecified among the 46 he documented.
Winterville Incised. Brown (1977:16) reports 1 sherd of var. Winterville from his 163-sherd surface collection.
Vessel Forms and Modes
Three basic Mississippian vessel forms are recognized: jars, bowls, and bottles. Many of the elaborate vessels from the Humber site cannot easily be fitted into these categories. Among the later are teapots and modeled effigies.
Carafe neck. This bottle neck is long and flares at both the rim and the junction with the body, the central portion of the neck is restricted.
Carinate. Carination refers to sharply inflected vessel inflection points. Carinate inflections are sometimes acute in bottle bodies and obtuse in bowl walls.
Collar (of bottle necks).
Effigy vessel. Life-forms imitated include gourd, bat, frog, opossum, and deer. Gourd effigies are typically seed jars, although teapots may also be gourd effigies. Bats are molded on shallow bowls and frogs are modeled in full on restricted bowls. Opossums are depicted in full and as heads, as are deer. A four-legged, two headed vessel may depict a mythological creature, similar to others with highly conventionalized animal heads with bared teeth.
Flaring-rim bowl. These vessels are generally plain.
Helmet bowl. This form is between flaring-rim bowls and Hushpuckena form jars in height-diameter ratios. It is a deep, open vessel which typically has a slight rim inflection. The name is based on an alleged resemblance in form to early military helmets.
Hemispherical bowl. These vessels are generally plain.
Hourglass neck. This short bottle neck has a single constriction separating flaring rim and neck-body junctions.
Hushpuckena jar. Belmont (19 ) defined a middle-to-late Mississippian jar form with gently curving shoulders. Bodies are generally globular. See Oliver jar.
Memphis (beveled) rim mode. Phillips House
Oliver jar. Belmont (19) defined a late-to-protohistoric Mississippian jar form with angular shoulder and neck-body junction. See Hushpuckena jar.
Rim-effigy bowl. Most animals depicted as rim-effigies are not identifiable, they have simple animal heads with snout and ears. Wood duck and turkey buzzard are identifiable. Possible supernatural beings include the “human” head with conic, indented-sided “cap”; another “human” with large, upturned nose; and what appears to be the “serpent-cat” or “water-panther.” Heads attributed to this creature have redundant features: buldging eyes, upturned ears, pronounced snout, bared teeth, and excised fangs. Deep bowls commonly have this head opposing a curling rattlesnake tail; modeled teapots popularly called “dogs” use the same head in combination with short legs and a long, tapering tail/spout.
Seed jar. Modeled ovoid body and, sometimes, stems indicate that the basic seed jar is a life-form effigy of gourds. Seed jars typically have a small round opening in the upper, constricted portion of the vessel.
Spool-shaped neck. This short bottle neck form is characterized by sharply flaring rim and neck-body junctions, and a swollen neck midsection between marked constrictions.
Stirrup-neck bottle. This vessel form is exceedingly rare in the Southeastern United States. [Nodena example(s)]
Teapot. This vessel form may imitate a gourd, a small knob on the upper shoulder opposite the spout is typical. The teapots from the Humber-McWilliams site are probably the largest group of these unusual vessels recovered from a single site. Other sites that have produced them include Oliver, Menard, A single teapot was recovered from the Fatherland (Grand Village of the Natchez) site (Neitzel).
Yazoo bowl. Phillips (1970
Tooled treatments, including most basically drawn lines but also some modes of punctation, appear to have been executed with a stylus held approximately as we hold a pencil. Ceramic types with tooled treatments include Barton Incised, Leland Incised, Owens Punctated, Parkin Punctated, Winterville Incised, Walls Engraved.
Engraving. This tooled line treatment is characterized by a very thin line made when the paste was very hard, perhaps after firing.
Incising. This tooled line treatment is characterized by moderately wide lines made with a blunt or pointed tool while the clay was relatively wet.
Nicking and notching. This simple rim treatments are typically tooled, some however are made with fingernails.
Punctation (tooled). Punctation is generally taken to include both modeled and tooled modes of execution. Tooled punctations are made by jabbing the still-moist vessel surface with a small stylus. A small joint of cane or grass results in a circular punctation. Tooled punctation is more typical of the type Owens Punctated than it is of Parkin Punctated.
Gadrooning. This form of bottle or jar body molding may imitate a gourd or pumpkin. The body is formed into wide, vertical ridges and swales.
Lugs and handles. These are applied to ease the lifting, moving, or suspension of vessels. A lug is a tabular projection, generaly horizontal with the lip plane. A handle is a small loop or strap of clay applied near the rim. Rim effigy bowls generally have a “tail” in the form of a lug.
Punctation (fingernail). Punctation is generally taken to include both modeled and tooled modes of execution. Modled punctations may be made with a single fingernail jabbed into the clay. Pinching with thumb and forefinger is taken as a mode of execution within fingernail punctation. Fingernail punctation is typical of the type Parkin Punctated.
Slipping and Varnishing
Slips are fluid clays applied to vessel surfaces to decrease permeability and to impart ornamental color. The slips were painted onto vessel surfaces and polished in. Slipped types include Old Town Red and Nodena Red and White; Avenue Polychrome has red and white slips with unslipped areas coated with a black varnish.
Black pigment. It has been speculated that this thin black stain is a vegetable product.
Red pigment. Hematite imparts a red color when oxidized. This clay mineral must be ground to color a clay slip.
White pigment. Kaolin, a highly weathered clay, was used as a white slip.
Motifs, Patterns, and Icons
The quantity of ceramic art with painted, modeled, and otherwise elaborated surfaces recovered from the Humber-McWilliams site offers ample material for the analysis of motifs. Some of the motifs to be described below are simple geometric patterns, others are complex symbols.
Bi-lobed atlatl or arrow. Many attempts have been made to interpret this widely-repeated icon.
Forked eye surround. The sparrow hawk was one of the birds associated with Southeastern war symbolism, and its distinctive white eye-marking was taken as a symbolic mode that could be added to humans and other creatures.
Festoon. This simple geometric pattern consists of a series of concentric semicircles descending from some line around the circumference of the vessel, such as rim or shoulder. The motif is associated with the type Winterville Incised, var. Blum, on the interior rims of bowls.
Guilloche. This simple geometric pattern consists of two sets of parallel lines intertwined. The design is continuous around the vessel. One red-slipped rim-effigy bowl from the Humber-McWilliams site has a guilloche around the exterior.
Imbrication. The pattern resembles fishscales; it presents a textured area. The motif is strongly associated with the small flaring-rim bowl interior treatment of Walls Engraved, var. Hull.
Mace. Weapons comprise a wide field of Mississippian warfare icons; the mace or carved wooden war-club is among the more common.
Meander. Unlike the scroll, the elements in a meander are connected and continuous around the vessel.
Nested rectangles. This motif occurs once in the Humber-McWilliams assemblage, as nested diamonds on a red and white slipped bottle and once as nested squares on a sheet brass head-dress.
Ogee. This basic geometric shape is widely repeated in Mississippian iconography. The form may be expressed by the outline of a bowl; it is sometimes also seen modeled on the upper bodies of bottles surrounding the neck.
Perforated disc. This modeled form occurs as a rim-effigy element.
Scroll. Unlike the meander, the elements are discrete. The are typically repeated, interlocking, and S-shaped. Interlocking alternating red and white scrolls form the most commonly represented motif among the Humber-McWilliams slipped bottles.
Severed heads and hands. Along with depiction of weapons such as maces and the bilobed atlatl or arrow, severed body parts connote warfare. “Trophy” skulls and other limbs are sometimes recovered from Mississippian graves, and some vessels (“headpots”) were shaped as human heads with precise features. At the Humber-McWilliams site, human heads are depicted on red-and-white slipped and engraved bottles and in some cases “extra” skulls were found in Humber graves; although it is interesting to speculate, there is no evidence that these are enemy skulls rather than those of relatives.
Step. This motif is rare in Mississippian contexts. It is seen in some square, cut-out vessels from Moundville [seek cite]. This motif occurs once in the Humber-McWilliams assemblage, on a slipped bottle.
Sunburst. This motif occurs once in the Humber-McWilliams assemblage, on a slipped bottle.
Supernatural beings. There are numerous monsters, divine beings, or mythological creatures depicted that do not coincide with mundane animals. Some are anthropomorphic.
Triangle. Various simple motifs used on the type Barton Incised involve patterns of repeated triangles. The commonest mode is the line-filled triangle. This continuous motif consists of alternating ascending and descending triangles filled with oblique hacture in opposing directions. Other common modes of decoration with triangles include alternating blank and line-filled triangles, and alternating punctation-filled and line-filled triangles. At the Humber-McWilliams site, these motifs are found on coarse-shell tempered jars.
Triskele. This geometric form is a three-armed swastika. It generally has the arms spiraling so that the motif runs continuously around the vessel.
Contact: Mary Evelyn Starr
Box 39, Sledge MS 38670
Phone (662) 444-5254
Keep up with me on the web and your social network