Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Grayson Ware

Period: Middle Woodland
Defining Attributes: Grayson is a late Middle Woodland to early Late Woodland sandy-paste ware usually tempered with crushed quartz. Surface treatments are commonly net, cord, and fabric.
Chronology: One radiometric date from 44PK0015 is CE 1015 +/- 55 (UGA 1928). The researcher interpreted this date as representing the end of Grayson Ware as it transforms into Dan River Ware. The suggested range for Grayson Ware in Virginia is CE 600 to1000, with overlap with Dan River Ware from CE 1000 to 1200.
Distribution: Grayson Ware is found in southwest Virginia along the upper drainages of the Dan River and New River. A concentration of the ceramics is found along the New River in Grayson County, west of the Blue Ridge. The South and North Mayo rivers and Smith River drainages have the greatest concentration of Grayson Ware sites in the Piedmont of Virginia in Henry and Patrick counties.
Description:
Paste/Temper: The paste is sandy with 10 to 50 percent of the paste composed of large chunks of crushed quartz. Most fragments are 2 to 5 mm in diameter but single examples can be as large as 9 mm
Surface Treatment: Commonly surface treatments include net, cord, plain, and fabric. Scraped and stamped surfaces occur rarely and may not be part of this ware. Vessel interiors commonly retain the scraped marks from a serrated tool.
Decoration: Minor decoration is confined to the rim. Decoration of the rim occurs immediately below the lip and consists of punctations or oblique parallel incised lines, normally in groupings of three.
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: Vessels are straight-walled globular pots
Vessel Diameter: Body and mouth diameters are similar 24 to 38 cm.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Lips are rounded and unmarked. Rarely are rims folded, and when they are, they are flattened and normally do not increase the thickness of the rim wall.
Base Form: Rounded base.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Ranges from 5 to 11 mm; majority 7 to 9 mm
Discussion: Holland (1970) equated Grayson Ware with Uwharrie Ware of North Carolina, which predates Dan River Ware. He felt that it shared “numerous similarities with Albemarle Series and the four series, Albemarle, Grayson, Uwharrie, and Yadkin appear to be extensions of a single ceramic tradition with local, temporal, and type variations.” Grayson Ware demonstrates the trend towards the replacement of crushed quartz by sand temper during the transition into Dan River Ware. Despite 45 years of archaeological research the only excavations that illustrate the context of Grayson Ware is Holland’s work on 44GY0010, a rock shelter, and Clark’s work on 44PK0015, a series of three Graysonperiod pit features.
Defined in the Literature: C.G. Holland (1970) first defined Grayson Ware in his archaeological survey of southwest Virginia.
References: Clark 2001; Holland 1970.;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020