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PREHISTORIC POTTERY. Woodland Culture Wisconsin c. 500 BC – 1650 AD By Mrs. Mary Barbara Summerfield. BASIC LANGUAGE OF CLAY. Clay: Fine grained material made of hydrated aluminum silicates, used in making pottery.

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prehistoric pottery


Woodland Culture


c. 500 BC – 1650 AD

By Mrs. Mary Barbara Summerfield

basic language of clay
  • Clay: Fine grained material made of hydrated aluminum silicates, used in making pottery.
  • Temper: Sand, crushed stone, ground mussel shell, crushed fired clay, or plant fibers used to reduce shrinkage, expansion and cracking during firing.
language of clay
Language of Clay
  • Slip: Clay mixed with water to make a type of glue used for attaching 2 pieces of clay…such as a handle to a pot.
  • Pigment: Some stones such as hematite can be ground into powder, and mixed with slip for decoration.
language of clay1
Language of Clay
  • Fire: Prehistoric pots may have been fired over an open air camp fire.
  • - Low Fire = Temperature range of

400 – 800 F.

- Bisque: Pots that have been fired once.

language of clay2
Language of Clay
  • Burnish: Small, flat or round stones may have been used to polish clay.
  • Wedge: Method of removing air bubbles from clay:
  • - A paddle covered with woven fabric or cord may have been used to beat the clay.
  • - A large stone would have supported the inside of the pot.
  • - A pattern would remain on the pot.
language of clay3
Language of Clay
  • - Grinding Stone
  • - Paddle with Fabric Cord
  • - Mussel Shells
  • - Sharp Sticks, Bone, Wood for Decoration
characteristics of woodland pots
Characteristics of Woodland Pots
  • Early Woodland
  • - Plain/Geometric Rim Decoration
  • Middle Woodland
  • - Bag-shaped, Cord Marked
  • Late Woodland
  • - Cord-decorated
pinch pot
Pinch Pot
  • Pinch Pot: Basic Pot Form
  • - Start with Snowball Shape.
  • - Pierce Center of Clay with Finger.
  • - Develop into a Bowl Shape.
  • - Tap botton of pot to create a “foot.”
coil pot
Coil Pot
  • Modern coil pots are started by using a slab, or flat base.
  • Woodland Culture pots may have started as coil pots. After reaching the leather hard stage, coils (snake-like shapes) were wrapped around the pot, slowly adding to the height of the pot.
  • Collared Rim: Thick rim of clay added to the top of a pot.
processing raw clay
Processing Raw Clay
  • 1. Harvest clay from an area rich in ancient riverbed clay.
  • 2. Let clay dry thoroughly.
  • 3. Pound or sift clay to remove heavy clods and grasses.
  • 4. Soak clay for 2 – 4 days.
  • 5. Knead clay to further reduce clods.
adding temper
Adding Temper
  • Prehistoric potters may have added as much as ½ pound temper for each pound of clay.
  • Soak the temper.
  • Knead it into the clay.
  • The clay should start to become more plastic, or workable.
  • - Use supplies from your tool kit to decorate your pot, if desired.
  • - Soak the hematite powder.
  • - Mix it with some slip.
  • - Use a brush or your fingers to “paint” a design on your pot.
drying the pot
Drying the Pot
  • - A pot should dry for at least two weeks prior to firing.
  • - Prehistoric pots were possibly covered and dried on the ground. As they started to dry, the coverings were removed.
  • - Pots can also be placed in the sun for sun baking.