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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Camden Ware

Camden Ware
Camden Ware
Period: European Contact
Defining Attributes: Camden Ware, dating from the historic period, is thin pottery pattern after European vessel shapes. The paste is compact with only silt as inclusive material. Exterior surfaces are plain, burnished, and may show the faint impressions of cord marking.
Chronology: The ware dates from the last quarter of the 17th century.
Distribution: Camden pottery occurs along the Rappahannock River in Caroline, King George, Essex (Port Tobago Bay area) and Westmoreland (Leedstown area) counties.
Description:
Paste/Temper: The clay is untempered. Texture is smooth, with a distinct clayey feel. Exteriors are usually buff to tan, with an occasional cream-colored sherd. Since the interiors show the same colors as the exteriors, the bowls were fired standing up-right in an oxidizing atmosphere.
Surface Treatment: Camden Ware is uniformly smooth on both the exterior and the interior. A few sherds show faint indications of being paddled with a cord-wrapped paddle, following which, the surfaces were smoothed over.
Decoration: The vessels are undecorated. No lugs, strap handles or adornments are found on this ware
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Camden vessels are dominantly shallow open bowls or simple cups, possibly copied from contemporary English vessels
Vessel Diameter: The medium size bowls are from 17 30 cm in diameter.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Most rims are straight or slightly everted. None are inverted. Lips are either square or rounded
Base Form: The base is flat, but with no ‘foot ring.’
Vessel Wall Thickness: Thickness ranges from 8 mm at the base to 4 mm near the rim.
Discussion: The ware is similar in paste and exterior surfaces to Courtland pottery (Binford 1965). MacCord states: ‘Camden Plain seems to be latest in the evolutionary sequence of Potomac Creek wares, strongly influenced by contemporary English-made ceramics and other local Indian wares, especially the shelltempered wares made by the Rappahannock Indians on the Rappahannock River and the Pamunkey Indians on Pamunkey River [Noel Hume 1962]. It may also be distantly related to the Courtland ware of the Nottoway River area’ (MacCord 1969:18). Camden Ware is also closely related to Moyaone Ware, which occurs in the same region. Moyaone Ware is just slightly earlier in time. All three ware-Potomac Creek, Moyaone, and Camden-probably overlap and represent a continuum in the Potomac River Valley.
Defined in the Literature: Howard A. MacCord defined the pottery from sherds excavated in 1964-1965 at the Camden Site (44CE0003) in Caroline County (MacCord 1969).
References: Binford 1965; MacCord 1969; Noel Hume 1962;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020