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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Bushnell Ware

Bushnell Ware
Bushnell Ware
Bushnell Ware
Bushnell Ware
Period: Early Woodland
Defining Attributes: Bushnell Ware, consisting of the single type Bushnell Plain, is one of the earliest pottery in Virginia and dates from 1200 to1000 BCE. The type is characterized by schist temper and smoothed surfaces. Vessels are small, shallow bowls with flat bases and lug handles.
Chronology: Radiocarbon dates on three samples (two of shell and one of wood charcoal) yielded an average, uncorrected date of 1110 BCE. The ware is probably contemporaneous with Marcey Creek Plain and Croaker Landing Plain (Egloff and Potter 1982: 95).
Distribution: The ware is named for David I. Bushnell, who first found this pottery at a site he called Nantaughtacund in Caroline County (Bushnell 1937). The ware has been found at the White Oak Point site in Westmoreland and at 44AB0039 (VDHR collection) in Albemarle County.
Description:
Paste/Temper: Most Bushnell Ware sherds have a friable paste. Texture varies from fine, compact and smooth to coarse, crumbly and uneven in consistency. Temper is composed of crushed muscovite and hornblende schist, with occasional clay, fiber, steatite, bone and shell inclusions in some vessels. Particle size varies tremendously, from fine flecks to coarse particles up to 8 mm in diameter. Temper comprises 5 to 40% of the paste. Waselkov (1982:283) speculates that, ‘The presence of fiber in at least six of the Bushnell Plain vessels poses the intriguing possibility that the inspiration for the technological innovation of pottery manufacture had a southern origin and was not a strictly local development.’ The existence of various tempers–soapstone, quartz, hornblende, muscovite schist, and clay–in the first ceramic vessels in the Middle Atlantic region indicates a period of active experimentation in pottery manufacture during the Early Woodland Period. Exterior surface color ranges from pale brown to light brown to light reddish brown. The vessels were probably fired upright at a low temperature in an oxidizing atmosphere.
Surface Treatment: Bushnell Ware was smoothed by hand on the exterior and interior, often unevenly, with large temper particles protruding from the surfaces. Bases show impressions of bundled fibers.
Decoration: The vessels were decorated with oblique cord notching of the lip and nicking of a lug.
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Vessels are small, shallow oval or rectangular bowls with rounded corners.
Vessel Diameter: Diameters varied from 104 to 126 mm.
Vessel Height: Heights varied from 85 to 88 mm.
Rim Form: Rims are straight and notched obliquely with a cord. Lips are tapered and rounded. Lugs were attached by clay rivets through holes in the narrow ends of vessel walls.
Base Form: Bases are flat with heel protrusions at the intersection with the vessel wall.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Wall thickness ranges from 6 to 11 mm.
Discussion: The ware is similar to Dames Quarter Black Stone Tempered Plain, reported from Delaware and eastern Maryland that is tempered with hornblende of perhaps Piedmont origin (Artusy 1976:2)
Defined in the Literature: Gregory A. Waselkov (1982: 290-291) defined Bushnell Ware from sherds excavated from the White Oak Point shell midden (44WM0119) on Nomini Bay, Westmoreland County.
References: Artusy 1976; Bushnell 1937; Egloff and Potter 1982; Waselkov 1982;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020