Through the diligence of an ISAS archaeologist, a donation of what initially appeared to be a box of random pottery sherds became an important type collection of Sny Bottom Late Woodland pottery vessels. This modest but important collection from a single archaeological site was generously donated to ISAS in 2018 by Herb Mangold, a Quincy, Illinois, citizen scientist.
Aimee Roberts, an archaeological assistant at the Western Illinois Field Station, volunteered numerous weekends and evenings putting together pieces of this particular archaeological puzzle, which resulted in the reconstruction of several unique ceramic jars known as La Crosse and Fall Creek Cordmarked ware types. These distinctive regional pottery styles were used by local native people approximately 1600 to 1200 years ago and reflect changes in vessel form and function over time.
As Late Woodland jars became thinner-walled and more globular-shaped, these technological improvements allowed the containers to sit upright without added support and/or be placed directly over a fire for cooking. Earlier Woodland vessels were generally more vase-shaped and had much thicker walls, which did not allow them to be used in this manner. Typically, pre-heated rocks were added to liquids contained in these vessels to boil the contents. However, the thinner and more curving vessel walls of later Late Woodland pots, such as Fall Creek Cordmarked, could withstand much higher temperatures and often exhibit charred organic residues that can be chemically analyzed to determine what was being cooked or processed in these culinary jars.
While this donated box of broken pottery may not have been eye-catching to most, it has already produced important archaeological information that will have lasting scientific value because it was placed in the public trust and can be studied by current and future researchers.
The contributions of amateur archaeologists, citizen scientists, and the everyday Illinoisans often add to ongoing and future archaeological research!
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