Selden Island is an Early Woodland ware characterized
by steatite temper and a cord-marked exterior.
Stratigraphic sequences and radiometric dating indicate
that Selden Island dates from ca. 1000 B.C. – 750 B.C.
Distributed from Virginia to Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania, Selden Island ware is found throughout the Maryland Coastal Plain and Piedmont.
The paste is fine-to-medium grained, compact, and cohesive, with
rare extraneous inclusions.
Selden Island is tempered with particles
of crushed steatite ranging in size from very fine – 10 mm in
diameter. The temper comprises of 25% – 50% of the paste. The
steatite gives the sherds a soapy, slightly greasy feel. The texture
varies between coarse and fine/smooth, depending on the size of
the temper particles. Selden Island ware is very soft, with a
Moh’s hardness of 1.5 – 2.0. Color ranges from an oxidized dull
gray through buff and tan, to reddish brown.
Exteriors are impressed with a cord-wrapped paddle in an overlapping,
crisscrossing, or oblique pattern. Some cord-marking on Selden
Island would be indistinguishable from that on Accokeek ware,
and the types could only be distinguished by the temper.. Interior
surfaces are irregularly smoothed.
Typically none, though nicking along lip edges has been reported.
Selden Island vessels are coil-constructed. Based on sherds discovered
in Delaware, Artusy (1976:2) suggests that Selden Island vessels
were conical in shape, with curved to straight sides, and with
lug handles. This was in contrast to earlier researchers, who
suggested that Selden Island vessels were tall, cylindrical pots
or oval or rectangular bowls with flat bases (Evans 1955). Rims
are thin, rounded, vertical, or slightly everted. Lips are usually
thinner than the body and are rounded or slightly wedge-shaped.
Vessels are medium sized, with sherds and small sections of pots
suggesting diameters of 10 cm – 35 cm. Vessel wall thickness ranges
from 7 mm – 14 mm while bases are 9 mm – 15mm.
Defined in the Literature
Richard Slattery (1946) first identified Selden Island pottery
from sherds found at the Selden Island site(18MO2) in Montgomery
County, Maryland. Manson (1948:225) later noted that Selden Island
sherds appeared to be similar to those recovered from the Marcey
Creek site, Virginia, but believed Selden Island to be slightly
more recent in date. The only difference he noted was that the
exterior surface of Selden Island sherds appeared to be "textile-impressed."
Clifford Evans later changed Manson’s definition of textile-impressed
exterior to cord impressed (Evans 1955:56)
Wise (1975: 2) has suggested that after the initial development
of Marcey Creek, a period of ceramic experimentation ensued in
which Dames Quarter and Selden Island wares were created. Artusy
(1976) observed that there were significant differences in manufacture
as well as shape between Marcey Creek and Selden Island wares.
Selden Island (18MO2)
+ 90; B.C. 1005
& Potter 1982; Evans