Clemson Island Ware is an early Late Woodland
ware characterized by crushed rock temper with cord-marked or
fabric-impressed surface treatments. One of the most distinctive
features of Clemson Island pottery (but not necessarily found
on all types) is a row of punctations and/or raised nodes/bosses
below the lip or on the upper rim. Defined types include Clemson
Island Cord-on-Cord, Clemson Island Corded-Horizontal, and Clemson
Island Platted Horizontal.
Stratigraphic sequences and radiometric dating
indicate that Clemson Island dates from ca. A.D. 800 – A.D. 1400.
Clemson Island is found throughout the Great
Valley, Ridge, and Valley regions of Maryland.
The paste has a hard and rough texture. The temper consists of
crushed chert, quartz,chert/quartz, and gneiss that varies from
2 mm – 3 mm thick. Clemson Island pottery has an average Moh’s
scale hardness of 2.5. Black blotching towards the rim and neck
area indicates firing was done in a wood-burning oxidizing atmosphere
(Garrahan 1990:27). Color ranges from light tan to gray.
Exterior surfaces are fabric-impressed or cord-marked. On cord-marked
vessels, cordage twist is predominantly Z-twist, but S-twist is
also found. Interior surfaces are smoothed, but often show fine
One or more rows of circular punctates below and encircling the
rim are typical. Punctates were applied with a round blunted dowel
which varied in thickness. Later ceramics tend to have smaller
punctates and finer design and surface treatment applications.
As a result, bosses usually show on the opposite surface of the
rim. Punctations can be interior or exterior, and vary in both
size and spacing. Corded horizontal, vertical, herringbone, or
concentric "V" motifs are also found.
Clemson Island vessels exhibit both coil and slab construction
with paddle malleation. The latter often show laminated cross-sections
where slabs have been molded together. Lip interiors are often
paddle marked, and rim profiles range from slightly inverted to
everted. Vessels are usually conoidal in shape, with wide mouths;
vessels may have conoidal to rounded bases, elongated bodies,
and necks that range from a moderate to a pronounced constriction.
Vessel size ranges from medium to large, with mouth openings between
16 cm and 31 cm. Vessel wall thickness ranges from 4 mm below
the rim to 15 mm at the base. Earlier styles tend to be thicker
and more friable.
Defined in the Literature
The first published description of Clemson Island was by McCann
in 1971, but it was not formally named until later. Clemson Island
ceramic styles are almost identical to some early to middle Owasco
types in northern Pennsylvania and New York state. In fact, Clemson
Island pottery styles cannot be adequately addressed without comparisons
to contemporaneous Owasco types. Clemson Island ceramics are also
contemporaneous with Page ceramics in the Potomac Valley, and
have been found in very small amounts at the Cresaptown (18AG119)
and Barton (18AG3) sites in association with Page ceramics. Sorting
out the various subtypes and their overall differences from Owasco
ceramics in the upper reaches of the Susquehanna is still in progress,
but it seems clear, according to Stewart (1990) and others, that
several distinct types of Clemson Island pottery appear to have
been manufactured and used contemporaneously.
Owasco ceramic trends show cord-marking on the
early Owasco wares, platting on middle Owasco, and beaded and
incised impressions on late Owasco pottery, with the addition
of collars ca. A.D. 1200 – 1300 (Prezzano 1992). Ideas about the
evolution and regional distribution of specific surface treatments
on Clemson Island pottery (e.g., overstamping), decorative motif
styles, and paste characteristics are still being developed from
the complex variety of types and co-occurrences at numerous Susquehanna
Valley sites. For example, at the Fisher Farm site (Hatch 1980),
stratified deposits facilitated the development of a Clemson Island
ceramic sequence applicable to central Pennsylvania. At Fisher
Farm there is a co-occurrence of Clemson Island with Levanna and
Carpenter Brook ceramics. Specific types there include Clemson
Island Cord-on-Cord, Levanna Cord-on-Cord, Clemson Island Platted,
and Clemson Island Platted Oblique. It seems clear that the similarities
and differences between Clemson Island and Owasco ceramics reflect
regular and frequent exchanges between the cultures of the Northeast
from Quebec to the Potomac Valley.
Maryland Sites with
Clemson Island components
Barton (18AG3), Cresaptown (18AG119), Paw Paw (18AG144)
|940 + 65;
Garrahan 1990; Hatch