This is a petrographic study of late Archaic - Early Woodland fiber tempered (i.e., Spanish moss) pottery recovered from the Crescent site (Stallings Island culture) in Beaufort County, South Carolina. This investigation is part of a larger study by Michael Trinkley and the Chicora Foundation. Thirty-four (34) sherds were examined in order to see if there were any textural or mineralogical characteristics that would assist in the form and type separation of this pottery.

The point count categories used in this study were paste (considered to be mainly clay minerals in origin and now, after firing, amorphous glass), quartz (separated by grain size), fiber, feldspar (noted as feldspar unless optical characteristics, primarily twining style, allowed separation into either plagioclase feldspar or potassium feldspar), opaques, other (includes epidote/clinozoisite, biotite and amphibole) and ACF (argillaceous clots or fragments of air-dried clay; see Whitbread, 1986).

With this pottery, the evidence for the presence and abundance of fiber temper is voids which contain some carbonized remnants. Since the fiber voids are of two different orientations, the influence of this orientation may account for some of the percentage differences (and ranges) that were observed.

Observations were also made concerning characteristics resulting from the firing of the pottery as well as the changes observed either as a result of use or of burial. These sherds display oxidation features (commonly a red to red-orange colour) on both the inner and outer sherd surfaces, extending into the sherd for several millimeters. The region between these oxidized zones (often called the core) is generally reduced and is either black to smoky gray in colour. Observations and measurements of the size of the oxidized zones and the degree of oxidation to reduction were noted in this examination. Lastly, some of the sherds show secondary carbonate infilling in the fiber void spaces. This mineralization may have resulted due to burial and interaction with ground water or as a result of usage.

All of the photomicrographs are taken using a BH-2 Olympus transmitted (and reflected) polarized light microscope. The thin-sections used are standard (30 micron thick) and epoxy-impregnated. Field of view, magnification, and type of observation (i.e., plane polarized vs. cross polarized) will be indicated.


Schematic example of fiber orientation in the Stallings sherds. Size of sherd displayed is 25 mm (long) by 5 mm (wide).




JBM-27 (2.5X, plane polarized light)

Only a few sherds were dominated by fiber. This photomicrograph shows a transition from the exterior (top) of the sherd to the interior (centre and bottom). Total distance viewed is 18mm. The fiber is found to exhibit specific orientation within the sherds examined. In general, the fiber voids which are oriented end-on (ovals in photomicrograph) are concentrated in the core of the sherd while the elongate fiber voids are found in the regions near both the interior and exterior surfaces. The regularity of this orientation suggests that this is the result of the manufacturing process. The surface of the sherds (those that contain fiber) are devoid of fiber. This sherd was fibre dominated with very fine to fine quartz grains and 1-3% (modal) mica grains.

JBM-8 (10X, plane polarized light)

Only two sherds had good remnant cross-sections (carbonized stem fragment) of the fiber present. These fragments are very similar to those described by Simpkins and Allard (1968; Fig. 2d, 3c, 4b) but can only be used to suggest that the fiber is Spanish moss. This sherd has quartz grains from very coarse to fine, < 2% (modal) feldspar and a few grains of mica (probably muscovite; rare).

JBM-30 (2.5X, cross polarized light)

The exterior of the sherds are often without fibre. This absence might be the result of floating or smoothing practices that were applied by the potter to the ceramic to bring up fine clays to cover the fiber (see also the orientation of the paste materials in the upper portion of JBM-27). These observations generally concur with the fiber analysis study by Simpkins and Allard (1986) on 60 Stallings sherds from Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. This sherd had quartz grains that ranged from very coarse to very fine and a few (fine-grained) feldspar grains. The fibre evidence was primarily voids as little carbonized material was found in this sherd.

JBM-14 (20X, cross polarized light)

Lastly, several sherds were observed to have infilling (or rimming) of the voids by calcite mineralization. This is probably a result of post-depositional groundwater interaction. This sherd was also fibre dominated with very fine to fine grained quartz.

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Last revision 01 August 2002