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Virginia Department of Historic Resources

Varina Ware

Varina Ware
Varina Ware
Period: Middle Woodland
Defining Attributes: Varina Ware is a knotted-net marked pottery with a medium to very coarse angular and/or rounded sand temper.
Chronology: Based on dates and associations, Varina Ware is viewed as a possible localized Middle Woodland type dated to 100 to 500 CE and therefore at least partly contemporaneous with Mockley and Prince George wares. It is also possible that Varina stands in an intermediate developmental position between Chesterfield and Prince George types. Dates for pits containing Varina sherds are 250 +/-60 and 480 +/-60 CE, both from the Aignor 3 site. Vertical distributions of typed sherds from non-feature contexts in shallowly stratified sites in eastern Henrico County show Varina sherds clustering higher than Pope’s Creek, and mixed with Prince George, Mockley and Bailey’s Creek. This pattern is most evident at the Aignor 3 and Dorey Park Sites.
Distribution: Varina Ware is localized, and is common, within the central Interior Coastal Plain of Virginia, including Henrico and Chesterfield counties.
Description:
Paste/Temper: Temper is medium to very coarse sand, finely crushed rock or a combination of rounded and angular rock fragments of varying particle size within a single vessel. Angular fragments usually appear to be crushed waterworn pebbles, most commonly of clear, milky, or smokey quartz. Occasional small, unbroken pebbles are minor constituents of the temper on a small number of vessels. Otherwise, the occurrence of a stray pebble or large angular quartz fragment appears to be an incidental inclusion and not an intentional part of the temper mixture. The pattern of temper quantity and distribution varies somewhat among the present sample of vessels, and, often, within a simple vessel. As a whole, however, Varina vessels are moderately to highly tempered, although more lightly tempered examples are know. Ferruginous clays were most commonly used in the manufacture of Varina ceramics. Most are medium to fine-textured. Occasional vessels made from sandier clays do occur but are rare. The paste often has a gritty feel due to the angular temper particles protruding through the body walls, especially on the interiors; otherwise the paste is fine and moderately compact. Sherds with coarse temper often have crackle lines around the larger particles. The body is generally hard and only moderately porous. Thinner and heavily weathered examples are often somewhat brittle, although not friable.
Surface Treatment: The exterior surfaces are impressed with knotted nets of medium to coarse mesh. Overlapping and “net-roughening” occurs on a minority of sherds. Impressions are clear and deep as if applied when the clay was still plastic. Interior are generally smoothed, but unfinished examples are known. Vessels are fired in an oxidation atmosphere. Exteriors range from light tan to reddish tan or reddish grey. Grey to black smudging is common, especially near the rim. Interior colors generally show the same colors and color ranges as the exteriors, although a minority is greyer.
Decoration: The ware normally lacks decoration
Morpholopgy:
Vessel Form: The available evidence show relatively deep, open bowls.
Vessel Diameter: Unknown
Vessel Height: Unknown
Rim Form: Rims are straight to slightly insloping or outsloping, with insloping more common. Lips are rounded, tapered or flattened. Most are flattened with rounded edges. A single, and presumably unique vessel display an outwardly folded or flanged rim. Rim decoration is rare but, when present, consists of finger pinching or impressions on the inside of the rim, resulting in a unique scalloped or fluted effect, identical to what is sometimes found on Mockley Ware.
Base Form: Rounded to subconical bases.
Vessel Wall Thickness: Vessel wall thickness ranges from thin to moderately thick. The majority are of medium thickness
Discussion: Varina pottery most closely resembles the Chesterfield Net Marked. Chesterfield itself is viewed as a late variant or continuation of Pope’s Creek Ware. The major difference between Varina and Chesterfield is in the temper. Varina has coarse temper while Chesterfield always is tempered with fine to very fine sand. In addition, the fluted rim decoration known for some Varina specimens has not been found on Chesterfield. Both types were found together around a large, open rock hearth dated to 230 +/- 100 CE at Aignore 9 site; however, the Chesterfield sherds were far less numerous and mostly somewhat deeper than the majority of Varina sherds. At the Reynolds-Alvis Site, a pit feature dated to 275+/- 85 CE contained sherds of a single Varina vessel, as well as one sherd of the type Chesterfield Cord Marked.
Defined in the Literature: Varina Ware was first described in the literature in 1986 by Mouer, Gleach, and McLearen in a volume of “Archaeology in Henrico Volume 2.” This localized ware has not been discussed further in the literature since the late 1980s
References: McLearen & Mouer 1989; Mouer 1986.;
Prepared By: McLearen 2001; Egloff 2009

Updated February 6, 2020