Replica Late Woodland Earthenware


Simulated ceramic artifacts from the Great Lakes region

In the ancient Great Lakes, the appearance of pottery indicates a transition from the Archaic Tradition to the Woodland Tradition. When pottery is present in artifact assemblages, it becomes a major focus of analysis and ceramics are often the most valuable artifacts used by archaeologists for certain types of research. Ceramics vary significantly in terms of clay and other raw materials used, apparent function, manufacture technique, quality of manufacture, shape and size, and decoration - and these change through time in a given locality and also from region to region at the same points in time; however, all of these variables are culturally influenced and cultures can often be identified beyond reasonable doubt by no more than a quarter sized rim-sherd.

Aside from addressing various research goals, the most important aspects of a replica vessel for most applications is matching the original attributes of overall shape, suitability for intended use, and markings including intentional decoration and incidental manufacture marks. Other attributes such as firing method, thickness, clay source, and temper type and amount are more or less important depending on the situation and intended use.

The pottery offered here is made with one of two themes, and for convenience, we will call them the "representative" and "specific" themes. Simply, a "representative" vessel is based on the most common attributes of the type, and a "specific" replica is based on an actual artifact. While a specific vessel may be the best choice for a museum or other interpretive facility that is site, region, or time specific, a representative vessel that has typical attributes of a type may be more appropriate for the educator, collector, or interpreter.


Our pottery is made with hand gathered wild clays and tempers from various deposits in the Great Lakes region. Construction techniques closely follow those of ancient times, including firing in an open fire, and the vessels are fully functional. We test our pottery by using it, and that means cooking directly on the fire and carrying water and many other domestic tasks; however, it is important to remember that these clays and tempers have not been certified as food safe or non-toxic - they are dug out of the ground from various deposits, and for that reason all vessels are offered for interpretive and decorative use only.

The risks inherent to using such fragile pottery limit the expected life of the vessels in daily use. This is also clearly the case with aboriginal cultures who have been documented using these open fired wares, and normal use will result in only 50% of vessels with low use frequency (like jars on a shelf or large water storage jars) lasting over 12 months, and for high use frequency vessels such as food bowls, less than 10% survive a year. Most vessels used for cooking last less than one month in everyday use. It is worth noting that these figures represent studies done in uncontrolled situations that included children handling and playing around the vessels daily, and many other dangers not generally associated with museum or interpretive situations. With care and occasional use, we have found vessels to last for years, but when purchasing open fired earthenware for active use, it is important to be aware of the expected lifespan and fragility of the wares. They are much easier to break than modern kiln fired wares, and the stress of normal use will eventually weaken the structure of the vessels and cause breakage (but don't worry, after all it is just burnt mud). Of course in a controlled museum or other inactive display situation, pottery has an indefinite lifespan.

Currently, we are offering mostly wares based on those of the Late Woodland Tradition. These are grit and sand tempered vessels formed mostly by the paddle and anvil technique. All are marked so they can not be mistaken for artifacts. If you need a specific replica or a vessel type not in stock, or would like to purchase an in stock vessel feel free to contact us for information.

Firing a batch of vessels. These replicas are all open fired and suitable for cooking including boiling and parching.

These vessels are boiling maple sap to collect  basic observations and data. Goals for this multi-year research project include recording fundamental aspects of sap processing with earthenware pottery such as variables affecting sugar recovery rates and  identification of possible evidence of ancient sap processing.

Home       Pyrophyllite      Ceramics     Projects     Hickory Nuts      Dugout Canoes     Contact