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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Chesterfield Ware

Period: Middle Woodland
Defining Attributes: Chesterfield Ware is fine sandtempered, knotted-net or cord-marked, oxidized-fired Middle Woodland pottery
Chronology: Mouer and McLearen (1987) believe the ware dates to the period ca. 100 BCE to 200 CE.
Distribution: Chesterfield Ware has been identified in the Interior Coastal Plain in Henrico and Chesterfield counties.
Description:
Paste/Temper: Temper consists of considerable quantities of fine rounded sand in a silty paste. The ware is harder than Pope’s Creek pottery. The clay body is porous, suggesting low to moderate firing temperatures. Chesterfield appears to have been fired in an oxidation atmosphere, since orange to red hues are typical on both interior and exterior surfaces. Sherds are frequently eroded, but not as highly weathered as Popes Creek from similar contexts
Surface Treatment: The exterior surface is marked normally with a net-wrapped paddle, and rarely with a cord-wrapped paddle. Net impressions are typically clear but shallow, perhaps applied on a leather hard body. Knotted net of medium to fine mesh is common. Cord is normally a moderately coarse cord. Overlapping of impressions occurs, but is rare.
Decoration: Decoration is confined to moderately frequent fingernail nicking of the lip.
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Vessels appear to be large to medium sized deep open bowls.
Vessel Diameter: Unknown
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Rims are direct. Lips are tapered or lightly beveled and nicked
Base Form: Sub-conical bases
Vessel Wall Thickness: Medium to thin vessel wall thicknesses.
Discussion: Chesterfield is considered to be a direct outgrowth of Popes Creek. There is apparently a continuum with only moderate change between Elk Island, Popes Creek, and Chesterfield, with the latter characterized by better firing, more compact, less porous paste, and less weathering. No “pure” Chesterfield context has yet been dated. However, a few sherds of Chesterfield ceramics have been recovered in two features containing large quantities of Prince George Cord Marked ceramics at the Reynolds-Alvis site (44HE0470) in Henrico County. One of the pits was dated to 335 +/-85 CE (UGa 4683), and since both contained identical Prince George pottery (some of which may cross-mend), these features are considered contemporaneous. The Chesterfield ceramics were minority inclusions in the feature fill and are presumed to have been included as backfill. Therefore, the Chesterfield occupation presumably predates the Prince George occupation on that site. Likewise, seriational assumptions (e.g. trends in increasing firing temperature and increased use of calcareous clays) and stratigraphic interpretations at 44HE0184 and 44HE0001 indicate that Chesterfield predates Prince George and post-dates Pope Creek. At the Dorey Park Site (44HE0184) Chesterfield Cord Marked was found stratified above Popes Creek and below Middle Woodland II ceramics.
Defined in the Literature: Chesterfield Ware was defined by L. Daniel Mouer, Douglas C. McLearen (1987), and Frederic W. Gleach from work at various sites in Henrico County in the early 1980s.
References: McLearen 1987; McLearen & Mouer 1989.;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020