Shenks Ferry is a Late Woodland ware characterized
by crushed granite or quartz temper and a cord-marked exterior with
the cords aligned vertically to the vessel. Decoration consists
of incised lines in geometric patterns encircling the rim. Defined
types include Shenks Ferry Cord-Marked, Shenks Ferry Incised, Lancaster
Plain and Lancaster Incised.
Stratigraphic sequences and radiometric dating
indicate that Shenks Ferry dates from ca. A.D. 1300 – A.D. 1575.
Shenks Ferry is found throughout the Piedmont
region of Maryland and across much of the lower Susquehanna Valley
in Pennsylvania. Shenks Ferry sites are also found in the West and
North Branch valleys of the Susquehanna River.
The paste has a gritty texture, ranging from coarse to smooth. The
clay is silty andmicaceous. The tempering agent varies greatly,
based on geographical location. Heisey (1971:45) notes that in the
Pennsylvania Piedmont, temper consists of a greenish mineral that
resembles "soft granite," with inclusions of schist, gneiss,
and feldspar dominating. In the northern Lancaster Plain, crushed
quartz, chert, and limestone are used. Temper particles are generally
under 3 mm in diameter, and comprise 10% of the paste. Shenks Ferry
has a Moh’s scale hardness of 2.0 – 3.0. Color ranges from an oxidized
gray to reddish brown.
Exterior surfaces are marked from the base to the neck with fine
to coarse cord-markings. The cord-marking is usually vertical to
oblique to the rim on the vessel exterior. The neck area is always
smoothed, and the base partially smoothed. Interior surfaces are
smoothed by scraping.
Shenks Ferry Cord-Marked vessels are rarely decorated with anything
more than simple cord-impressions. Shenks Ferry Incised and Lancaster
Incised vessels are decorated with incised lines. Rim areas are
sometimes smoothed before decoration.
Incised lines are produced by short, rapid strokes
that overlap at random in horizontal, vertical, diagonal and criss-cross
lines. Heisey (1971:46) describes the incised lines on Shenks Ferry
vessels as crude and suggests that true incised lines are rarely
found. Vertical or oblique paddle edge cord-impressions are applied
often at the base of the rim, at its juncture with the neck.
Shenks Ferry vessels were coil-constructed or slab built from a
mass of clay, and paddle malleated. Vessel shapes range from a narrow
rounded base that flows with a continuous curve into a wider shoulder
and constricted neck, to egg-shaped or globular. Shenks Ferry Cord-Marked
vessels have an angular to rounded cord-marked lip, and sharply
constricted necks that have short, smooth collars added. Shenks
Ferry Incised vessels are the same as the Cord-Marked, except that
the lips are angular only. Vessels are predominately egg-shaped,
but occasionally occur as elongated globular forms with the greatest
diameter at the shoulder. Vessels are commonly medium sized, with
height varying between 12 cm and 34 cm.
Defined in the Literature
Christopher Wren (1914) was the first person to publish a description
of Shenks Ferry pottery, although he did not name it. That occurred
nearly forty years later, when Witthoft and Farver (1952:15-22)
defined this pottery as Shenks Ferry. Since then, numerous archaeologists,
such as Kinsey, Heisey, Graybill and Griffith, have worked on refining
the definition, distribution, and dating of Shenks Ferry pottery
Sequential phases of Shenks Ferry that have been
defined include, from early to late, the Blue Rock, Funk, and Lancaster
phases. There appears to be a relationship between Shenks Ferry
in Pennsylvania and Montgomery Complex cultures in Maryland based
on similarities in the Shenks Ferry and Shepard ceramics.
Shenks Ferry Site , Lancaster, County, Pennsylvania.
Maryland sites with
Shenk’s Ferry ceramics
Rosenstock (18FR18) (one vessel only)*
* collections at the MAC Lab
None in Maryland
Custer et al. 1993; Griffith
1982; Hart et
al. 1995; Heisey
and Graybill 1971; Meissner
and Graybill 1977; Witthoft
and Farver 1952; Wren