Virginia State Seal

Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Marcey Creek

Period: Early Woodland
Defining Attributes: Marcey Creek is an Early Woodland ware characterized by crushed steatite temper, rough and unevenly smoothed exterior and interior surfaces. Vessels have a flat base with a protruding heel, vertical walls, and two lug handles.
Chronology: Stratigraphic evidence and radiometric dating indicate that Marcey Creek dates from ca. 1200 to 600 BCE. (Egloff and Potter 1982:97).
Distribution: Marcey Creek is found throughout the Coastal Plain and Piedmont regions, from Delaware south to the James River in Virginia. Specifically to Virginia, it is found throughout the Coastal Plain south to the western scarp of the Dismal Swamp, north of the Piedmont James River, and in the northern Shenandoah Valley.
Description:
Paste/Temper: The clay is fine-to-medium grained and compact. The temper consists of coarse-to-fine crushed steatite that varies from very fine to 10 mm in diameter, and makes up 25 to 50 percent of paste. The steatite gives the sherds a soapy or greasy feel. Marcey Creek Ware is soft. Color ranges from an oxidized dull gray, through buff and tan, to rose and reddish brown.
Surface Treatment: Marcey Creek Ware is smoothed from the rim to the base, but exhibits a wavy or lumpy appearance, with lumps of temper protruding through the paste. The flat base sherds show impressions of a coarse, open weave fabric or net. The base was marked when the damp clay vessel sat on a fabric mat or net while it was formed. Interiors are smoothed or plain.
Decoration: The only decorations recorded by Stephenson et al. (1963:91) were “occasional lip nicking.” Incising has been observed on sherds in rare occasions, and even more rarely the vessels exhibit patterns on rim exteriors (Wall et al. 2000).
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: The ware is a hand-modeled ceramic with flat-bottomed bases and straight slab-constructed walls. Some vessels are possibly coil constructed on a flat base (Stephenson et al.1963:91, Egloff and Potter 1982:95).
Vessel Diameter: Vessels are medium sized, with sherds and small sections of pots suggesting diameters of 15 to 28 cm.
Vessel Height: Vessels are shallow, from 10 to 20 cm.
Rim Form: Rims are vertical to slightly inverted. Lips are usually thinner than the body and are rounded or slightly wedge-shaped. Lug handles are attached to the rim 20 to 40 mm below the lip.
Base Form: Bases are flat with protruding heels, and range from 9 to 15 mm in thickness. Basal sherds are heavy and unevenly finished. All basal sherds recovered from the Marcey Creek Site exhibit impressions of a coarsely woven mat on the exterior (Manson 1948:225).
Vessel Wall Thickness: Vessel wall thickness range from 7 to 14 mm.
Discussion: Marcey Creek vessels were apparently copied from steatite bowls and are similar to Bushnell, Crocker Landing, Dames Quarter, and Ware Plain (Wise 1975:21). 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.
Defined in the Literature: Carl Manson (1948:223) first defined Marcey Creek from pottery found at the Marcey Creek Site, in Arlington County, Virginia. He identified two wares, Marcey Creek Plain and Marcey Creek Cord Marked. Manson noted, however, that Marcey Creek Cord Marked differs in temper (clay and crushed lithic materials other than steatite) and manufacturing technique (coiling) from Marcey Creek Plain. In 1955, Clifford Evans combined both wares with the Selden Island Ware defined by Richard Slattery to create the Marcey Creek Series. Stephenson et al. (1963) later refined the definition of Marcey Creek Plain using sherds found at the Accokeek Creek site (18PR8), in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
References: Ayers 1972; Egloff and Potter 1982;; Manson 1948; Stephenson et al. 1963; Wall et al. 2000; Wise 1975;
Prepared By: Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020