Ancestral Caddo Ceramics in East Texas (Perttula and Selden)

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The most distinctive material culture item of the ancestral Caddo groups that lived in East Texas (Figure 1) from ca. A.D. 900 to the 1830s were the ceramics they made primarily for cooking, storage, and serving needs. The decorative styles and vessel forms of ceramics found on sites in the region hint at the variety, temporal span, and geographic extent of a number of ancestral Caddo groups that lived in this area. The diversity in decoration and shape in Caddo ceramics is considerable, both in the utility ware jars and bowls, as well as in the fine ware bottles, carinated bowls, and compound vessels. Ceramics are quite common in domestic contexts on habitation sites across the region, and also occur as grave goods in mortuary contexts.

 Figure 1

Figure 1. The Southern and Northern Caddo Areas in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.

The Caddo made ceramics in a wide variety of vessel shapes, and with an abundance of well-crafted and executed body and rim designs and surface treatments. From the archeological contexts in which Caddo ceramics have been found, as well as through inferences about their manufacture and use, it is evident that ceramics were important to the ancestral Caddo in: the cooking and serving of foods and beverages, for the storage of foodstuffs, as personal possessions, as incense burners, as beautiful works of art and craftsmanship (i.e., some vessels were clearly made to never be used in domestic contexts), and as social identifiers. In the case of the later, certain shared and distinctive stylistic motifs and decorative patterns on ceramic vessels marked closely related communities and constituent groups.

The stylistic analysis of Caddo ceramics from sites in East Texas has focused on the definition of recognizable decorative elements, patterns, and motifs on the rim and/or body of the quite diverse fine wares (i.e., the engraved and red-slipped vessels, including carinated bowls and bottles) and utility wares, usually cooking or storage jars and simple bowls. These decorative distinctions have both temporal and geographical distributions across East Texas, and in some cases, across the broader Caddo area, and the recognition and unraveling of those distributions  has been key to the reconstruction of settlement and regional histories of different Caddo communities as well as their socio-cultural character.

The stylistic distinctions that have been recognized in East Texas Caddo ceramics are based primarily on the pioneering typological research done by Alex D. Krieger, Clarence Webb, Dee Ann Suhm (Story) and Edward B. Jelks in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962, Suhm and Jelks presented descriptions of 60 Caddo ceramic types that had been identified in Caddo sites in East Texas and the Caddo archeological area up to that time. According to Suhm and Jelks (2009:3), since 1962:

the Caddoan [sic] types, at least those found in Texas, have changed surprisingly little, more tweaked than substantially altered. Elsewhere in the Caddoan [sic] area, a relatively modest number (considering the amount of pottery usually found at the sites) of new types have been defined, although many varieties of existing types have been introduced and design motifs, even design element categories, have been recognized, especially by archeologists working in Arkansas.

While the ceramic types defined by Suhm et al. and Suhm and Jelks in 1954 and 1962, respectively, are still useful classificatory constructs for Caddo archeological research, a number of new Caddo ceramic types have been recognized in East Texas archeological sites since the mid-1960s—some better defined than others. Most of them are poorly known among archeologists that work on Caddo sites in the region. Some new varieties have also been identified among several of the well-known types defined in the 1950s, including Poynor Engraved, Hume Engraved, Ripley Engraved, and Wilder Engraved; these varieties may have more discrete temporal and geographic boundaries than when first defined.

Many archeologists working in the East Texas Caddo area continue to rely, erroneously, on the estimated ages of types offered by Suhm and Jelks (1962). However, with the advent of relatively extensive radiocarbon dating of Caddo sites in the region—and the seriation of burials in cemeteries of different ages—as well as many new archeological research investigations, much more accurate temporal estimates for the manufacture and use of ancestral Caddo pottery types are apparent. Distinctive sets of ceramic vessels and assemblages of different ages and areas within the region.

Table 1 represents our efforts to partition the known ancestral Caddo ceramic sets in East Texas. The stylistic diversity in the decorated wares on East Texas Caddo sites has led to the recognition of distinctive stylistic motifs and types that have unique spatial and temporal distributions (although these are still being refined) (Figures 2-5), and the distribution of these ceramic sets can be linked with the identification of culturally specific Caddo groups, phases, and vessel assemblages in the East Texas archeological record.

 Table 1. East Texas and mid-Red River Caddo Ceramic Sets.

Early Caddo set, ca. A.D. 900-1300

 Bowles Creek Plain

Canton Incised

Coles Creek Incised

Crenshaw Fluted

Crenshaw Lobed

Crockett Curvilinear Incised

Davis Incised

Dunkin Incised

Duren Neck Banded

Hickory Engraved

Hickory Engraved, var. Chapman

Holly Engraved

Kiam Incised

Pennington Punctated-Incised

Spiro Engraved

Weches Fingernail Impressed

Williams Plain

 Middle Caddo set, ca. A.D. 1100/1200-1300/1400, upper Red River, cf. Sanders phase, and in parts of East Texas

 Canton Incised

Leaning Rock Engraved

Maxey Noded Redware

Monkstown Fingernail Impressed

Paris Plain

Sanders Engraved

Sanders Plain

Spoonbill Engraved

Broaddus Brushed

Nacogdoches Engraved

Pineland Punctated-Incised

Reavely Brushed-Incised

Tyson Engraved

Washington Square Paneled

 Middle Caddo set, lower Red River, ca. A.D. 1200-1400

 Dunkin Incised

East Incised

Friendship Engraved

Haley Complicated Incised

Haley Engraved

Handy Engraved

Hempstead Engraved

Pease Brushed-Incised

Allen phase, ca. post-A.D. 1650

Bullard Brushed

Constricted Neck Punctated

Deshazo Brushed-Appliqued

Hood Engraved (effigy bowls)

Hume Engraved

Killough Pinched

King Engraved

La Rue Neck Banded

Lindsey Grooved

Mayhew Engraved

Patton Engraved

Spradley Brushed-Incised

 Belcher phase set, ca. A.D. 1500-1680

 Avery Engraved

Belcher Engraved

Belcher Ridged

Cowhide Stamped

Foster Trailed-Incised

Glassell Engraved

Hodges Engraved

Karnack Brushed-Incised

Moore Noded

Taylor Engraved

Latest Belcher phase set, 1680+ (and other post-1680 contexts)

 Natchitoches Engraved

Hodges Engraved

Glassell Engraved

Keno Trailed

Ebarb Incised

Foster Trailed-Incised

 Frankston phase set, ca. A.D. 1400-1650

 Bullard Brushed

Fair Plain

Hood Engraved (effigy bowls)

Hume Engraved

Hume Plain

Killough Pinched

La Rue Neck Banded

Maydelle Incised

Poynor Brushed

Poynor Engraved, multiple varieties

 Kinsloe phase, post A.D. 1680-1830

 Darco Engraved

Emory Punctated-Incised

Henderson Plain

Keno Trailed

Natchitoches Engraved

Patton Engraved

Simms Engraved 

McCurtain phase set, ca. A.D. 1300/1400-1700

 Avery Engraved

Clark Engraved

Emory Punctated-Incised

Hudson Engraved

McKinney Plain

Nash Neck Banded (shell)

Simms Engraved

 Texarkana phase set, ca. A.D. 1400/1450-late 17th century

 Avery Engraved

Barkman Engraved

Bowie Engraved

Foster Trailed-Incised

Hatchel Engraved

Karnack Brushed-Incised

Keno Trailed (latest part of phase)

McKinney Plain

Moore Noded

Nash Neck Banded

Pease Brushed-Incised

Simms Engraved

Titus phase set, ca. A.D. 1430-1680

Anglin Corn Cob Impressed

Bailey Engraved

Bullard Brushed

Cass Appliqued

Gilmer Engraved

Harleton Appliqued

Johns Engraved

Karnack Brushed-Incised

Killough Pinched

La Rue Neck Banded

Maydelle Incised

Pease Brushed-Incised

Ripley Engraved, multiple varieties

Taylor Engraved

Turner Engraved, multiple varieties

Wilder Engraved, multiple varieties

Latest set in Titus phase area, ca. A.D. 1680+ (best known at the Clements site (41CS25)

 Clements Brushed

Darco Engraved

Hatinu Engraved

Keno Trailed

Simms Engraved

Taylor Engraved

Post-A.D. 1680, mid-Red River and upper Sabine River basin

Emory Punctated-Incised

Natchitoches Engraved

Simms Engraved

Womack Engraved

Womack Plain

TAMU-B.FH9

Figure 2. Important Early Caddo sites: 1, George C. Davis; 2, Fasken; 3, Roitsch; 4, Taddlock; 5, Hudnall-Pirtle; 6, Grace Creek; 7, Bison A; 8, Hale; 9, Boxed Springs; 10, Pace; 11, Boyette; 12, Joe Meyers; 13, Crenshaw; 14, Mounds Plantation; 15, Gahagan; 16, Jaggers; 17, Henry Chapman; 18, Bowman; 19, Bentsen-Clark. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.

Middle Caddo Sites_Final

Figure 3. Important Middle Caddo sites, major Red River Caddo centers occupied during the Middle Caddo period, and defined Middle Caddo period phases. 1, Harling; 2, Sanders; 3, Fasken; 4, Roitsch; 5, Holdeman; 6, Hatchel; 7, Hurricane Hill; 8, 41RR181 and Little Mustang Creek; 9, 41TT670; 10, 41CS150; 11, Coker (41CS1); 12, 41TT372; 13, 41FK70; 14, Benson’s Crossing; 15, Crabb (41TT650); 16, Harold Williams; 17, 41UR21; 18, Big Oaks; 19, Griffin Mound; 20, 41UR133; 21, 41UR8; 22, McKenzie; 23, Spoonbill; 24, 41RA65; 25, T. M. Moody; 26, 41WD518; 27, Yarbrough; 28, Charlie Crews; 29, Jamestown; 30, Carlisle; 31, Langford; 32, Bryan Hardy; 33, 41HS74; 34, Old Brown Place; 35, Oak Hill Village; 36, 41PN14; 37, Musgano (41RK19); 38, Pace McDonald; 39, 41CE42; 40, 41CE289; 41, George C. Davis; 42, 41CE290; 43, 41NA20; 44, Washington Square; 45, Tyson; 46, 41SA123; 47, 41SA89; 48, Knight’s Bluff; 49, 41FK7; 50, Hudnall-Pirtle; 51, Gray’s Pasture; 52. Redwine.

Late Caddo Phases - FINAL

Figure 4. Late Caddo period phases in East Texas and immediately surrounding areas.

map07-shade.FH9

Figure 5. Clusters of Historic Caddo sites and defined phases. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.

Refining and further bracketing the age and intra-site chronological relationships of the ceramics in ancestral Caddo sites in East Texas remains to be fully accomplished, but work is underway through intensive radiocarbon dating efforts (including the dating of organic residues preserved on ceramic vessels and sherds). It is also important that the old and new ceramic types used in the region (including ceramic types yet to be recognized) be fully defined, and differences and similarities in ceramic decoration and manufacture be established. Such analyses can be employed then to answer questions of the social and cultural affiliation of ancestral Caddo groups, and the place of  particular ceramic assemblages within specific communities of Caddo people.

Suggested Readings

Early, A. M.
2012    Form and Structure in Prehistoric Caddo Pottery Design. In The Archaeology of the Caddo, edited by T. K. Perttula and C. P. Walker, pp. 26-46. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.

Perttula, T. K.
2013    Caddo Ceramics in East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 84:181-212.

Story, D. A. and E. B. Jelks
2009    Foreword. In Handbook of Texas Archeology: Type Descriptions, edited by D. A. Suhm and E. B. Jelks, pp. 1-5. Reprint Edition, Gustav’s Library, Davenport, Iowa.

Suhm, D. A., and E. B. Jelks (editors)
1962    Handbook of Texas Archeology: Type Descriptions. Special Publication No. 1, Texas Archeological Society, and Bulletin No. 4, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin.

Suhm, D. A., A. D. Krieger, and E. B. Jelks
1954    An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25:1-562.

About the Authors

Dr. Timothy K. Perttula is a Research Affiliate at the CRHR, and Manager at Archeological & Environmental Consultants, LLC

Dr. Robert Z. Selden Jr. is a Research Associate at the CRHR

O-NAGPRA-2012.1.504

Turner Collection, O NAGPRA 2012.1.504
Vessel image appears courtesy of the Anthropology and Archaeology Laboratory
Vessel animation appears courtesy of the Virtual Curation Laboratory

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4 thoughts on “Ancestral Caddo Ceramics in East Texas (Perttula and Selden)

  1. I’m wondering if this would be a good venue for getting descriptions and illustrations of the newly and poorly defined ceramic types out there?

    1. I think it’s a good place to post new photos and descriptions, yes. I also think it would be a good idea to create a “Type Collection” in CRHR:ARCHAEOLOGY (digital repository) where we could provide each entry (i.e., type) with a citable/stable URL – the collection can be easily updated to include new images/revised descriptions as well as discussions/images of type-specific variants. Getting new/color images of the old types might be a bit of a chore, but it’s something that I’m looking into – also creating a basemap of East Texas so that we can revise the outdated distributions (among other things – is a big project).

      1. Dr. Selden and I are also working on a MS that discusses and illustrates the new post-1962 types, with the descriptions including information on key decorative elements and motifs. At some point it may comprise the first iteration of what goes on CRHR:Archaeology.

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