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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Shepard Ware

Period: Late Woodland
Defining Attributes: Shepard is a Late Woodland ware, characterized by quartz and/or crushed igneous rock temper and a cord-marked exterior surface. Vessels often have added collars.
Chronology: Stratigraphic sequences and radiometric dating indicate that Shepard dates from 900 to 1450 CE. At the Kerns Site (44CK0003) in Clark County the ware was dated to 1050 +/- 70 CE (SI 535).
Distribution: Shepard Ware is found throughout the Piedmont and Great Valley regions of Maryland, and rarely in the western Coastal Plain. In Virginia it is found in Clark, Frederick (Faulk Site, 44FK0003), Shenandoah (Quicksburg Site, 44SH0003), and Rockingham counties.
Paste/Temper: The paste of Shepard Ware is fine-grained and compact. The texture is medium-fine and clayey to the touch. Temper consists of crushed quartz or a crushed igneous rock that varies from 1 to 10 mm thick, and makes up 10 to 20 percent of the paste. Color ranges from an oxidized red to tan, brown, gray or black.
Surface Treatment: Exterior surfaces are predominantly cord marked. The cord marking is commonly oblique, but vertical impressions also occur. Impressions are usually clear and distinct, but not very deep. On the lower portion of the vessel, overlapping impressions made with the edge of the cord-wrapped paddle sometimes occur, creating a “fabric”-like appearance. Cordage diameter ranges from medium to large, and the cords are tightly wrapped around the paddle. Interior surfaces are smoothed.
Decoration: Decoration of Shepard ceramics is applied to the lip, rim, collar, neck and shoulder. Decorations are usually made with a cord-wrapped paddle edge. The most common decorative techniques include rows of horizontal cord impressions on the collar, a series of oblique cord impressions at the base of the collar, and vertical columns of cord impressions on the neck. Incised decorations in similar motifs occur in about 20 percent of the decorated vessels.
Vessel Form: Shepard vessels are coil-constructed with paddle malleation. Vessel shapes are globular, with a constricted orifice or a short vertical neck, rounded or straight sides
Vessel Diameter: Vessel sizes range from medium to large.
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Lips are usually flattened. Lips commonly show signs of cord-impressions, or are smoothed. Rims are vertical or slightly everted. Vessels often have added collar strips like those found on Page ceramics, a similar contemporaneous ware.
Base Form: The vessels exhibit rounded to semi-conical bases.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Vessel walls are uniform and even, with thicknesses ranging from 4 to 11 mm.
Discussion: Evans (1955) incorporated Shepard Cord Marked Ware into his Albemarle Pottery Series, as did Stephenson et al. (1963) from pottery recovered at the Accokeek Creek site (18PR8) in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The pottery should not be combined with Albemarle. In Virginia Shepard Ware should be restricted geographically to the Shenandoah Valley.
Defined in the Literature: In 1952, Schmitt described Shepard Ware from sherds recovered at the Shepard site (18MO3) in Montgomery County, Maryland. Slattery and Woodward (1992) provide a detailed description of Shepard ceramics from the type site and other nearby related village sites.
References: Curry and Kavanagh 1991; Griffith 1981; MacCord et al. 1955; Schmitt 1952; Slattery and Woodward 1992; Stephenson et al. 1963.;
Prepared By: Egloff 2008

Updated: February 6, 2020