Beyond the Ethnicity Debate: Examining the Many Contexts of Colonoware

Part of: Society for American Archaeology 81st Annual Meeting, Orlando, FL (2016)

Colonoware refers to handbuilt, low-fired earthenware likely produced by both Native Americans and enslaved Africans between the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries in the United States. Traditionally, researchers have debated the ethnicity of colono producers by formulating arguments around specific vessel attributes that might be considered "Native American" or "African". While these debates provide important insights, a focus on ethnicity obscures research avenues that can address critical questions about social and economic networks. The papers in this session move beyond the ethnicity debate to interrogate colonoware, and its contexts, using attribute-based analyses and incorporating new analytical techniques, such as Geographic Information Systems and compositional analysis. The papers examine colonoware from a variety of perspectives to explore processes such as production, use, exchange and interaction, and the ware’s role in local and regional economies. The studies cover a wide geographic distribution and demonstrate that this pottery tradition—while exhibiting general similarities in material traits—is also highly variable and based on the particular social and economic contexts of its users and producers.

Resources Inside This Collection (Viewing 1-11 of 11)

  • Documents (11)

  • Beyond Ethnicity: Compositional Analysis and the Manufacture and Trade of Colonoware. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Brian Crane.

    Hand-built, low-fired pottery from South Carolina exhibit a sometimes bewildering degree of heterogeneity. Analysis of vessel form, construction technique, temper inclusions, chemistry and surface treatment suggests a broad range of practice and potential cultural influence. Colonoware vessel forms and surface treatment display a complex blending of traditions that arose from the entangled lives of Africans, Native Americans and Europeans and reveal something of the complex cultural...

  • Characterizing Colonowares from Three Sites in the Central Virginia Piedmont (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Barbara Heath.

    First described in the literature in 1962, colonowares were initially interpreted by Ivor Noël Hume as low-cost provisions to enslaved people that substituted for more costly colonial ceramics. Later archaeologists argued that they were the products of enslaved potters or represent a creolized folk pottery that mixed Native American, African and European potting traditions. Whoever made them, a growing body of evidence indicates that they were used by enslaved and free people across racial...

  • Colonoware as Cottage Industry: Household Production and the Internal Economy at Dean Hall Plantation, South Carolina (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Nicole Isenbarger.

    Research into the slave settlement at Dean Hall Plantation uncovered substantial evidence for the on-site production of Colonoware. Archaeology of household production and the anthropology of households provide us with frameworks for investigating the individual strategies of different homes as they engaged in the internal economy. Each household was a productive unit and their ability to produce their own wares affected their needs, access, and exchange within local markets. Identifying the...

  • Colonowares of the Apalachee Province of La Florida (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ann Cordell.

    Colonowares of the Apalachee Province of La Florida consist of plain and red painted pottery made in European vessel shapes by Apalachee potters between 1650 and 1702. This pottery, also known as “copy wares” or “mission ware,” represents hybrid products of transculturation that show elaboration or syncretization, in which newly introduced European vessel shapes provided the inspiration for vessels made by Apalachee potters using traditional materials and methods. Typical colonoware vessel forms...

  • A Diachronic Perspective on Colonoware from the J. Joyner Smith Plantation (2016)
    DOCUMENT Full-Text Karen Smith. Brandy Joy.

    Recent work on SC DNR’s Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve, once part of the J. Joyner Smith Plantation in Beaufort County, South Carolina, offers an opportunity to study changes in ceramic consumption through time. Utilizing archaeological samples from several distinct occupations on this Sea Island cotton plantation, we chart changes in colonoware abundance, in particular, and relate them to larger socio-economic changes taking place across the region during the early 19th c. In addition to...

  • Hampton Comes Alive! An Examination of Colonoware from Hampton Plantation (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Stacey Young. Brooke Brilliant. David Jones.

    Recent excavations at Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, located in Charleston County, South Carolina, have yielded colonoware from an early eighteenth century occupation and a late eighteenth to nineteenth century occupation. The later occupation is associated with the Horry family, who developed Hampton Plantation. A large assemblage of colonoware associated with this late eighteenth to nineteenth century context has been recovered from the living and work areas of enslaved workers and...

  • Is Colonoware an Emblem of Enslavement? (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Laura Galke.

    During the antebellum period the town of Manassas, Virginia, was composed of free whites, and both free and enslaved black people. In this small community material culture played a crucial role in broadcasting status amongst its anxious constituents. They lived in an atmosphere where “whiteness” connoted cleanliness, order, freedom, and privilege. An individual’s proximity to, or distance from, whiteness yielded either powerful benefits or humiliating consequences. This was a community in which...

  • Lesesne Colono Ware (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ronald Anthony.

    As part of the analysis of the colono ware from Lesesne and Fairbanks Plantations on Daniel Island, South Carolina in the mid 1980s, a class of colono ware called Lesesne Lustered was described and offered as a variety of colono ware likely present in colonial Lowcountry South Carolina. Subsequent research since the Daniel Island study and a recent re-look at colono ware from selected Lesesne Plantation contexts support an interpretation of Lesesne Colono Ware as a rural as well as an urban...

  • Making Pottery, Constructing Community and Engaging the Market: Colonoware Production on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Ashley Atkins Spivey.

    Colonoware is an important object of the colonial era that continues to invoke debate surrounding the ethnic identity of its makers. However, attempts to tie an “exact” ethnicity to colonoware production dismiss the deep structure of social processes tied to these objects created, used, and sold by both enslaved African American and Indigenous communities. This paper combines archaeological, oral history and documentary research conducted on the Pamunkey Indian Reservation located in tidewater...

  • Revisiting Variation in Colonoware Manufacture and Use (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Elizabeth Bollwerk. Leslie Cooper.

    Previous analyses (Cooper and Smith 2007, Smith and Cooper 2011) of Colonoware from 33 sites occupied during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by enslaved peoples in South Carolina and Virginia have revealed significant inter-regional variation in vessel abundance over time. Additionally, analyses of attributes such as soot residue and vessel thickness identified intra-regional homogeneity and heterogeneity in use and manufacturing techniques. This study tests whether these trends continue...

  • Trends and Techniques of Catawba Colonoware, ca. 1760-1800. (2016)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only David Cranford.

    While surficial similarities exist among colonoware assemblages produced by different communities of potters, owing to shared colonial templates, this ceramic tradition, like any other, reflects the specific economic and social contexts in which it is produced, circulated, and used. By the 19th century Catawba potters were well-known producers and itinerant traders of low-fired earthenware across South Carolina, but the origin and character of early Catawba colonoware production has not been...