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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Courtland Ware

Period: European Contact
Defining Attributes: Courtland 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 or burnished. Decoration does not occur, but small loop handles and lugs are attached below the lip on mugs.
Chronology: Binford dated the ware from 1675 to 1750 based on the mean size of the bore diameters of pipe stems associated with the surface collections of the ware from five sites.
Distribution: Courtland pottery is centered in the area inhabited by the Weanock, Nottoway and Meherrin Indians of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. That area is in Southampton and Greensville counties along the Nottoway and Meherrin rivers. Examples have been found in Sussex counties along the Nottoway River and at the John Green site (44GV0001) along the Meherrin River near Emporia. Examples that have come from colonial sites near Petersburg and from Kingsmill sites in James City County indicate the extent of its trade. In general, the ware is distributed in the interior coastal plain along and south of the James River.
Description:
Paste/Temper: Courtland Ware is untempered. Inclusive material consists of very fine particles of sand, probably naturally occurring in the clay. Texture is smooth and compact. Color ranges from a light gray to creamy buff. Vessels are well oxidized, giving them a light cream or buff color. Dark colors, when present, are due to smudging
Surface Treatment: Courtland Ware may be either plain or burnished. Plain vessels were smoothed both on the exterior as well as on the interior. There is evidence that the surface was first scraped and then smoothed. Burnishing was done with a narrow tool that left faint marks 5 to 10 mm wide. Many burnished sherds have a distinct luster. Burnished vessels occur predominately later in time
Decoration: Decoration does not occur, but small loop handles and spike lugs are attached just below the lip on mugs. Small horizontal flange on bowls serve as handles.
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Courtland vessels are shallow bowls, plates, or small mugs
Vessel Diameter: Mugs range in oral diameter from 7 to 13 cm. Plates range from 13 to 25 cm in diameter.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Rims vary from straight to outsloping. The outsloping form turns at the mouth to form a horizontal flange from the mouth to the lip. Lips may be square, rounded, or slightly scalloped on the flange form. Burnished rim sherds more often have square lips, scallops, and wider flanges.
Base Form: Flat bases with a ‘foot ring’ are the dominant form; however, rounded forms do occur.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Vessel walls are generally thin
Discussion: The pottery is similar to Camden Ware defined along the Rappahannock River (MacCord 1969). The surface treatment and many of the vessel forms are similar to the shelltempered Colono Indian Ware (Noel Hume 1962).
Defined in the Literature: Lewis R. Binford first defined the pottery in 1965 from surface collections gathered near Courtland in Southampton County.
References: Binford 1965; MacCord 1969; Noel Hume 1962;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020