Experimental archaeology is a way to recreate the past using present day materials. In order to understand how clay pots were made and used by prehistoric peoples, experiment by making pottery at home!

Step 1 – Choose your clay

  • Option 1: Natural clay can be found near places with water. Try searching around the edge of creeks, riverbeds, streambeds, or even the beach!
  • Option 2: Purchase clay from a craft or art store.
Illustration by Alan E. Carman

Step 2 – Build your pot using prehistoric techniques

  • A. Modelling Technique
  • B. Edge-Stacking Slab Technique
  • C. Coil Technique
Left: Video of coil pot technique by April Estoch. Right: Illustration by Alan E. Carman displaying pottery manufacturing techniques.

Step 3 – Decorate your pot with prehistoric tools

  • Incisors (sticks, antler, shell) to create designs
  • Net or cords to create texture
  • Modern tools (skewer, fork, pencil, etc.)
Left: Cordage Stick. Right: Woodland period clay pot with cordage impression found in Cumberland County, NJ

Step 4 – Air dry or fire your pot

  • For air-drying clay, leave pot outside in a dry environment exposed to the sun for 1-2 days
  • To fire your pot, use a campfire or fire pit with help from an adult
Left: Video example of pit firing pottery created by Florida Museum. Right: Pit firing pottery during an experimental archaeology class at Monmouth University.

Send us a picture of the ceramics you make to be featured in our online exhibit!

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Greenwich, New Jersey 08323