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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Albemarle Ware

Albemarle Ware
Albemarle Ware
Albemarle Ware
Albemarle Ware
Period: Middle Woodland
Defining Attributes: Albemarle Ware is a crushed quartz tempered pottery with predominately fabric, cord, and plain surfaces.
Chronology: Holland estimated the age at 1200 to 1400 CE based on seriation. This is too late of a date range. Radiometric dates on pottery identified as Albemarle range from 320 to 1000 CE on sites in the Valley of Virginia. Gallivan (2002) estimated a date range of 600 to 1200 CE for Albemarle Ware in the James River Piedmont. Klein (1994) received five radiometric dates ranging from 995 to 1160 CE at the Partridge Creek Site, 44AH0193, along the James River in Amherst County. He also presented two dates ranging from 570 to 1020 CE from the Spessard Site, 44FV0134, in Fluvanna County.
Distribution: Albemarle Ware, as originally defined, occurred predominantly along the James, Rivanna, and upper Rappahannock rivers, in Albemarle County and in the surrounding counties. Later it was applied to pottery in the Shenandoah Valley at Cabin Run (44WR0300), John East Mound (44AU0035) and Lewis Creek Cement Plant (44AU0051). Albemarle Ware, in order to remain a tool for discerning cultural processes, needs to be restricted in space far more than it is at present. Perhaps the ware should be restricted to the Piedmont of Virginia in the vicinity of Albemarle County, where it was originally defined.
Description:
Paste/Temper: The original temper description of Albemarle Ware said ‘crushed rock.’ However, crushed quartz was the predominant temper. Particles ranged in size from 1 to 10 mm, with the average from 3 to 5 mm. At the Partridge Creek Site temper ranged from 0.6 to 2.6 mm in diameter with a mean value of 1.7 mm.
Surface Treatment: As originally define, Albemarle Ware has plain, cord, fabric, net, simple stamped, and scraped surface treatments. However, the majority of the surface treatment was cord or fabric with some plain. At the Partridge Creek Site fabric impression decreased from the early to the late phase while cord marking increased.
Decoration: Typically none on early Albemarle Ware, but occasional stick punctates along the rim and gashes on the rim. The edge of the cord or fabric wrapped paddle is often used at the later Partridge Creek Site, 44AH0193, to form the orifice of the vessel, and may be used to tack down an applied rim strip, or used to form lines around the vessel below the rim. Diagonal lines or chevrons may be incised below the rim. Finger-nail impressions may occur on the constricted neck, in some cases to tack down the thicken rim. At the late Partridge Creek Site 40 percent of the rims from the early phase are decorated while 63 percent of the rims from the later phase are decorated. Decoration certainly increased in frequency through time.
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Typically a round body with a short vertical rim with an everted lip
Vessel Diameter: : Estimated from sherds, mouth diameters 20 to 32 cm, majority 24 to 28 cm.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Majority unthickened, rounded or flat top. Usually the rims and necks form a straight wall with the body. At the Partridge Creek Site a few fabric marked vessels have a collared rim with an applied rim strip, reminiscent of later Dan River pottery.
Base Form: Globular vessel form with rounded base.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Range from 4 to 11 mm; majority 6 to 8 mm.
Discussion: Albemarle Ware as originally defined by Evans (1955) was found on sites in and around Albemarle County, on the James, Rivanna, and upper Rappahannock rivers. Holland (1960) expanded the distribution of the term to all crushed-rocktempered pottery in the Shenandoah Valley (see illustrations from 44PA0128, vessel, and 44KK0003, profile, in the Shenandoah Valley). MacCord and Gardner followed Holland’s lead. Egloff (1989) suggested that the ware be restricted to the Piedmont, to the region in and around Albemarle County, the area most associated with the original definition. The ware, in order to remain a tool for discerning cultural processes, needs to be restricted in surface treatment, time, and space far more than it is at present. Thus, the crushed-quartz and rocktempered pottery found in the Shenandoah Valley should be identified as something other than Albemarle Ware. Grayson Ware, a similar ceramic except that it exhibits net-impressed pottery and no fabric-impressed pottery, is found to the south along the Roanoke drainage.
Defined in the Literature: Evans defined the ware in 1955.
References: Evans 1955; Egloff 1989; Holland 1960; Gallivan 2003; Klein 1994;
Prepared By: Egloff 2008

 

Updated February 6, 2020