Native American Culture/Aripeka FL pottery shards


QUESTION: I manage a small gallery in Aripeka FL   One of the locals loaned me a small can of pottery fragments that he had dug up, so that I may photograph them    He, of course wanted more information

This evening he came and said that he had found more and will be bring them over

This is a link to one of the photos (Im guessing that they are timucua)  I left the smooth non patterned pieces out  

Of the things that he and I are both curious about<What was their name<Where did they obtain red clay< why did they coat the inside of with charcoal or black clay

ANSWER: That's a very nice group of shard. My experience is primarily with Southwestern pottery, but the Florida people constructed the pottery in a very similar manner, hand shaping coiled structures and wood firing. The color of clay changes during firing, depending upon the temperatures achieved and the wood used. If Pit fired, at higher temperatures, native grey clay can certainly fire red depending upon the mineral content. Sometimes smoke clouds can mark a surface with carbon and blacken an area of a wood fired pot, while a hot jet may burn off the carbon and leave a red or orange area. Since these pots were not slipped overall for decoration, and the textured surfaces leave lots of places for carbon to deposit, I would expect that a whole pot would have quite a lot of color variation over the exterior surface. Inside the pot, usually placed upside down over a bed of coals or rocks for firing, would remain darker. Also if the pot were used for cooking or food storage, it may well be discolored, much darker from the contents. Hope this helps a bit.

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QUESTION: Thanks, that is helpful  From what I can see, the black areas are on the inside and are from drying the clay prior to decoration, the humidity is too high and rains here are too common for the usual mid-western approach

Continuing my uneducated guessing  the most most often necessary content would be fresh water   Most pottery sites around here are off shore but near a source of fresh water(One could imagine the children learning how to operate a boat by paddling their parents supplies to a rather safe small island)   A small offshore island doesn't seem a likely lace to store food, there are too many reeds for baskets too many fresh fish   Besides, unless they paddled 20 miles further and dangled the pots off the side of the boat the water temperature too high to provide refrigeration, the food would spoil by the next day
The red color is most likely cattail root peelings, a common North American additive     The root fiber is high in phosphates, which lowers the melting temperature of the glass and adding any dried fiber, in itself, speeds production

Thanks for the help, have you any knowledge as to the name of the group who used this decoration pattern? (I assume a pattern would be equivocal to a family name, but such a proto language is a long reach on my part)       The patterns appear to have been carved by re-wetting the surface and bouncing a springy bone, such as a birds wish bone attached to a stick  The excellent control for the depth, leads me to believe that the internal drying and re-wetting process would be pretty common amongst the tribe(I've made a few ugly mud pies myself, if somebody doesn't teach that to you, you'll be a caveman for eternity)

If you'd like, Ill send you some new pics when the next batch comes in    Anything special you'll want in the photo?

ANSWER: If I were you, I'd take the stuff to Florida State to have the anthropology Dept. take a look. I'm not familiar enough with this pottery to offer further comment. the style of pecked incising is not one that was used in any of the groups of cultures whose work I know, so it might be a completely indigenous Florida technique. Good luck with your further research.

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QUESTION: Thanks for the response,  If my source ever does wander back into the store, I'll ask him.  After all it is not my property.

BUT, ADDING To our fascination with this old stuff, recent Youtube videos do add a bit of interesting spice!!    Did you know that the very same swirl pattern is currently being used in the Mediterranean to search for ATLANTIS!  

If he comes back with the fountain of youth , I'll cut your office a bargain on the vending machine.

Sounds like a very interesting bit of research. A more typical way the inside gets darker is from smoke in the firing darkening the clay as the inside temps are cooler than the outside of the pot, and also, if it was actually used in food prep, the food would stain the insides. The swirl pattern may actually be pretty typical for decoration among most hand coiled pottery of the period, wherever it was made as techniques are often dictated by surroundings and tools. Thanks for the update.

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Richard Sutton


As a direct reservation trader in all aspects of American Indian arts since 1985, I've answered questions regarding cultural property issues, origins of traditional crafts, materials and techniques, collecting, authenticity, symbols and, of course, repairs! We have operated a retail gallery since that time, bricks and mortar until 2007 and online since 1996. Our online operation closed in 2/2015, to allow me to finally write full-time. My writing site can be found at I'll be adding a book or two from our trader experiences under the pen name of W.T. Durand and the rest of my fiction is under my own name. We are not "New Age" practitioners of adopted American Indian religious ceremonies or combined philosophies. If you are seeking such knowledge for spiritual reasons, we will only provide answers that address factual information on these subjects. Unless one is raised in a traditional, American Indian family with language, culture and religious belief intact, we don't believe that simply applying the trappings or cultural property of a given traditional group will give a non-Indian (Native if you prefer)any insight other than the academic.


My primary focus is on Southwester American Indian Nations and their people, but I also have experience in Plains and Northeastern traditions, having engaged in active trade and retail since 1985 and study for most of my life. I am not claiming any expertise at all in the work, techniques, lifeways or crafts that are made by the Native People of Mexico. They are not the same, either linguistically or culturally but certainly their crafts deserve discussion and appraisal by those who are able to provide real information.

I was a guest on Fox Network "Lifestyles" program, during the 1990s, to discuss how to tell forgeries, and authenticating jewelry as Native American work. I have also written extensively for our website, and our Ebay Store.

UofO, 1970 active in the Authentic American Indian Arts business and direct Trader since 1985. Graphic Designer and published novelist.

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