Ceramic pots were built using several techniques, and decorated with many tools such as cordage, net, shell, and more!

Processing and Manufacturing Techniques

Technique and Temper

Steatite bowls were constructed using tools such as chisels and picks, leaving clear tool marks on each vessel. Clay ceramics were constructed using molding, slab, or coil techniques. Method and shape of both steatite and clay ceramics show non-ceramic-containers being imitated. Ceramic vessels made through slab construction have shapes that replicate steatite bowls, and wooden and bark containers. This is similar to how coil constructed pottery imitates the way coiled baskets are made. Varying vessel shapes in early ceramics may indicate the continued use of stone boiling cooking instead of cooking directly over the fire. Eventually ceramic shape changes to be more round for cooking directly over the fire.

Clay ceramics often include a temper that is added to the clay in order to prevent clay from shrinking and cracking during the firing process and cooking. Tempers may include shell, or different stone materials such as argillite and chert which are local to New Jersey. Thinness or thickness of ceramics can also indicate the use of the pot and during what time. Thin-walled pots with finely crushed temper are less likely to crack during heating/cooking., but pots with large-sized temper and thick walls are more resistant to mechanical stress. Pots used by hunter-gatherers, might be more useful if they are resistant to mechanical stress than heating/cooking stress.

Archival footage of Maria and Julian Martinez c1920; pottery making at San Ildefonso Pueblo c1949.

Style and Design

Pots may use symbols and designs to display group identity. Surface treatment and decoration can reflect the nature of social interactions, group aesthetics, and where, and by whom a potter is trained.

Tools for decorating include incising tools such as shell, antler, and stone tools. Other surface treatments include fabric impressions from nets and cord-wrapped sticks.

Clay pot found in Cumberland County, NJ. Includes mending holes tied together with sinew.

Cracks and Mending

Broken pots could be converted into smaller scooping containers, or holes may be drilled on each side of a crack so that sinew (an animal tendon or ligament) or cord may be placed to prevent the pot from breaking. Fragments of stone vessels were carved into pendants, jewelry, doughnut-shaped beads, ladles, and grooved or notched pieces that may have been ornaments, fishing weights, or bolas stone (throwing weapon).