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Preserving Tradition and Understanding the Past: Papers from the Conference on Iroquois Research, 2001-2005

Stylistic and Technological Analyses of Ceramic Vessels from the Bailey Site, Onondaga County, New York
Christina B. Rieth and Elizabeth Horton

Iroquoian village and hamlet sites are known for their large and diverse artifact assemblages. Lithic and ceramic artifacts constitute the majority of the artifacts found on these sites in New York and southern Ontario (Lennox 1995; Ritchie and Funk 1973; Snow 1995). Detailed analyses of these materials often provide insights into the settlement, subsistence, economic, and interaction patterns of the community (Snow 1994; Rieth and Horton 2006). Archaeological excavations by the New York State Museum’s Cultural Resource Survey Program at the precontact Bailey site in Onondaga County, New York, produced a large ceramic assemblage consisting of vessel fragments (Rieth and Horton 2006). Stylistic and technological analyses of these artifacts contribute to our understanding of the chronology of the site and enhance our understanding of Native manufacturing techniques. This chapter provides an overview of the ceramic assemblage fromthe Bailey site, describes howthe vessels were used, and discusses the role of ceramic vessels within the larger realm of Iroquoian settlement and subsistence. Adiscussion of howthis information can be used to understand Iroquoian culture and history follows.

Archaeological excavations at the Bailey sitewere conducted between 2002 and 2004 in advance of highway construction along Route 31 in the Town of Clay, Onondaga County, New York (Figure 1.1.). Materials recovered during excavations indicate that the site reflects the occupation of a horticultural hamlet. Accelerator Mass Spectrometry dates derived frompottery encrustations and charred maize locate this habitation during the Late PrehistoricOakHill and Chance Phases (c.A.D. 1300–1450). Artifacts were recovered fromshallow storage features and a dense sheet midden encompassing much of the site. These are consistent with contemporaneous remains from Iroquoian sites in New York and include incised pottery and pipe fragments, bifaces, projectile points, a stone adze, charred floral and faunal remains, and lithic debitage (Rieth and Horton 2006). The recovery of charred berries, maize, squash, and nutshell suggest that the site was occupied for much of the year (Horton and Rieth 2004).

Sample Description and Analysis For comparative purposes, the primary unit of analysis was the vessel rather than individual sherds. The ceramic sherds from each excavation unit were examined and organized into vessel lots. Ten or more sherds, a single rim sherd, or a nearly complete vessel therefore might represent vessels. Unlike other studies (Wray et al. 1987), body sherds were included in this analysis as they provide information about the surface treatment, size, and volume of the vessels. This information is important and assists archaeologists in determining vessel function. Forty-three distinct vessels were identified from the 4,103 sherds. These artifacts were recovered from feature and non-feature contexts during the hand excavation of shovel test pits, test units, and test trenches. Figure 1.2. depicts some of the rim and body sherds recovered from the site.

Thirty-one different decorative and technological attributes were recorded for each vessel. These attributes included ceramic type; orifice diameter; lip shape and wall thickness; lip decoration; rim shape; interior decoration; collar/neck shape and height; collar design; collar base treatment and thickness; castellation and decoration; surface treatment; temper size/type; and vessel color.

Pottery Types Pottery types were determined following MacNeish (1952). The number and percentage of each pottery type are shown in Table 1.1. The two most common types are the Garoga and Chance Incised types, with each type comprising greater than 20% of the overall assemblage. Garoga and Chance Incised pots are found on late prehistoric sites in central New York (Tuck 1971) as well as the Mohawk (Snow 1995) and Genesee valleys (Wray et al. 1987). Wagoner Incised, Rice Diagonal, Fonda Incised, Dutch Hollow Notched, and Onondaga Triangular types were also identified and represent types typically found on Late Woodland sites in New York (Snow 1995; Tuck 1971).

One two cord-marked and check-stamped vessels were recovered. Traditional pottery typologies often associate these types with Late Middle Woodland and/or Early Late Woodland groups in New York (Ritchie and MacNeish 1949). However, there is evidence that stampingmay also be a LateWoodland and Contact period trait in parts of the Northeast (Chilton 1996, 109). Recovery of stamped pottery from the same proveniences as collared vessels suggest that these sherds were either (1) redeposited from an earlier ephemeral camp or (2) the Iroquois occupants of the sitemanufactured vessels using a variety of surface treatments.

Ten vessels (23.3%) lacked diagnostic attributes and could not be associated with a particular pottery type (Table 1.1.). These vessels contain incisedmotifs andmost likely date to the LateWoodland occupation of the Bailey site given their recovery contexts.

Orifice Diameter
The size of the orifice diameter is important and impacts the effectiveness of the container for use as a long-term cooking vessel. The orifice diameter of the vessels was measured using a standard rim diameter chart that matched the sherd curvature against a series of concentric circles. With the exception of very small pots, only those sherds that exhibited more than 4 centimeters of the rim were used to arrive at diameter estimates. Since the mouths of some Iroquoian pots are oval or square rather than round and often change at a castellation, these figures should be regarded as best estimates.

Diameter estimates could only be calculated for thirtyfive (81.4%) of the forty-three vessels (Table 1.2.). Results suggest that more than half of the vessels (20 or 57.1%) contain orifice diameters measuring less than 15 centimeters (5.91 inches). The remaining vessels (15 or 42.9%) contain orifice diameters measuring more than 15 centimeters (5.91 inches). Table 1.1. Summary of Pottery Types Recovered from the Bailey Site (n=43). Pottery Type* Cultural Period Number of Vessels % Vessels Garoga Incised Late Woodland/Contact 13 30.2% Chance Incised Late Woodland/Contact 9 20.9% Wagoner Incised Late Woodland/Contact 4 9.3% Rice Diagonal Late Woodland/Contact 1 2.3% Fonda Incised Late Woodland/Contact 1 2.3% Dutch Hollow Notched Late Woodland/Contact 1 2.3% Onondaga Triangular Late Woodland/Contact 1 2.3% Cordmarked Late Middle/Early Late Woodland 1 2.3% Check-stamped Middle Woodland 2 4.6% Unidentified —- 10 23.3% *Types based on information contained in MacNeish (1952). Table 1.2. Orifice Diameter. Diameter (cm) Number Percentage 5–10 4 11.4% 10–15 16 45.7% 15–20 10 28.6% 20–25 5 14.3%

Lip Shape and Wall Thickness
Lip shape refers to the shape of the surfacewhere the interior and exterior rimmeet along the uppermost surface of the vessel. Four basic lip shapes were recorded in the assemblage: flat, thickened, rounded, and cleft. A flat lip shape is characterized by a surface in which the interior and exterior rim of the vessel form right angles with the lip.Arounded lip shape is characterized by a surface that is beveled or rounded in profile, while a thickened lip shape is characterized by a lip surface that is thicker than the rim of the container. This thickened surface is often rounded or squared. A cleft lip shape is characterized by a thickened surface that is divided into two sections as a result of incising or the application of some other decorative motif.

Of the forty-three vessels, forty-one (95.3%) were analyzed for their lip shape (Table 1.3.). The remaining two vessels lacked a complete lip making it difficult to determine the final shape. The majority of the vessels (31 or 72.1%) contained a flat lip shape. A flat lip shape is commonly found on vessels in central and western New York (Engelbrecht 1996) and is also described by MacNeish (1952) as a predominant attribute on Iroquoian vessels throughout the Northeast. Rounded and thickened lip shapes, also seen in the Bailey site collection, are identified in limited quantities on other Iroquoian sites in the Schoharie Valley and central New York (LaFrance 1980). The only two vessels with a cleft lip shape were both identified on the check-stamped vessels.

Vessels containing flat and rounded/beveled lip shapes were found in the same stratigraphic levels, features, and loci across the site. Although Garoga Incised containers predominantly exhibited a flat lip shape, other containers such as the Wagoner and Chance Incised types appear to have a greater range of attributes on the vessels identified with flat and rounded lip shapes.Measurements of the lip thickness for all of the vessels contained in the collection were recorded to the nearest millimeter. The range of size varied from 3.94 to 10.49 millimeters with the average thickness being 8.45 millimeters.

Table 1.3. Summary of Lip Shape.

Lip Shape Number Percentage
Flat 31 72.1%
Round 5 12..2%
Thickened 3 7.3%
Cleft 2 4.9%
Total 41  

Lip Decoration
Lip decoration refers to the range of motifs and their method of application around the lip of the vessel (Table 1.4.). Following Engelbrecht (1996),Wray et al. (1987), and others, the decoration and thickness of the lip of the vessel provide important information about the style and the techniques used in vessel construction. Forty-one vessels produced information about the decoration of the lip of the container. Eighteen (43.9%) lack decorative motifs around the lip of the vessel.Among these types are sherds associated with Garoga and Chance Incised vessels. Wray et al. (1987:Appendix E) indicate that incised lines around the lip are formed when a sharp object is inscribed into the surface of the clay, producing a line that often appears deeper than it is wide. The lip of the vessel often contains sharp edges and has a v-shaped appearance when viewed in cross-section. Sixteen vessels contained incised motifs around the lip of the vessel. The incised lines found on the vessels from the Bailey site were identified in a variety of styles: Eight vessels (19.5%) had oblique lines; five (12.2%) had vertical ones; and three (7.3%) had horizontal lines.

Table 1.4: Lip Decoration.

Method of Application Decoration Number Percentage
Plain -- 18 43.9%
Incising Oblique Lines(/ and \)
Vertical Lines
Horizontal Lines
Notched Notches 6 14.6%
Cordmarked Horizontal Lines 1 2.4%
Total   41  

Notching and cord-marked motifs were found in limited quantities across the site. Notching was identified on six (14.6%) of the vessels and is represented by a series of exterior protrusions on the outer lip of the container. Cordmarking was identified on one (2.4%) vessel and the design consists of a single continuous horizontal cord-wrapped stick or paddle line encircling the lip of the vessel.

Rim Shape
The interior and exterior rim were recorded as concave, convex, or straight (MacNeish 1952). Only twelve vessels exhibited enough of the rim to yield information about rim shape (Table 1.5.). Half contained a concaveconvex rim shape while 25% contained a concavestraight rim shape. Smaller quantities of the following rim shapes were also identified: convex-concave (8.3%), convex-convex (8.3%), and convex-straight (8.3%). No containers with a straight exterior rim shape were identified in the collection.

It is not known why the occupants of this site preferred a concave-convex or concave-straight rim shape. The Bailey site is not the only Iroquoian site to exhibit this type of rim attribute. Engelbrecht (1996, 60) reports that vessels with concave-convex and concave-straight rims were frequently found on pots fromthe Ripley site in Erie County, New York. Although Ripley was occupied later than the Bailey site, the presence of these characteristics on pots in different geographic areas and dating to different periods may be indicative of long-term changes in pottery manufacture that occurred over much of the Northeast.

Interior Decoration
The inner edge of the lip and the vessel interior just below the lip were also analyzed. Of the forty-one vessels analyzed, all but four (9.7%) containers revealed a plain interior. The remaining four vessels contained incised, oblique, or vertical lines and each lacked a collar. Similar interior motifs have been identified in central New York sites associated with occupations dating to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries (Tuck 1971).

Collar Shape and Height
Following the definitions outlined in MacNeish (1952), several collar typeswere identified at the Bailey site. These include a well-defined collar, appliqué collar, poorly defined collar, and no collar. Of the forty-one vessels analyzed, thirteen (31.7%) vessels contained a well-defined collar, one (2.4%) an appliqué collar, ten (24.3%) a poorly defined collar, and seventeen (41.4%) had no collar. Of the twenty-four vessels with measurable collars, collar heights were determined bymeasuring the distance fromthe top of the lip to the base of the collar and are summarized in Table 1.6. The majority of the vessels (11 or 45.8%) contained a collar height between 12 and 21 millimeters. Most of these collars were well defined and decorated with oblique incised lines. Four vessels exhibited collars less than 12 millimeters high, and each of these were poorly defined. Three containers exhibited a collar height greater than 32 millimeters. Many archaeologists have argued that collar height increased through time (Chilton 1996, 102).Although larger collars appear on later Iroquoian vessels, most vessels dating to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries contain smaller collars with height ranges similar to those found at the Bailey site.

Table 1.5. Interior and Exterior Rim Shape.

Rim Shape
Rim Shape
Number Percentage
Concave Concave
Convex Concave
Straight Concave



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