Maryland Diagnostic Artifacts


About this Website

Beginners Guide to Historic Ceramic Idenitification

Historic Ceramic Types

How to Cite this Website


Prehistoric Ceramics
The earliest ceramics produced in the U.S were made in the Southeast around 2500 B.C.  In Maryland, Indians started making unglazed, low-fired pottery a little over 3000 years ago.  Initially, they experimented with different manufacturing techniques.  Their first pots were made from hand-molded slabs of clay, and resembled the flat-based steatite (soapstone) bowls that were already in use at that time.  In fact, these early ceramic vessels were often tempered with crushed fragments of steatite.  (Temper is material – such as stone, shell, or broken pottery -- added to the clay to improve its workability and firing properties). See the following periods: Early Woodland; Middle Woodland, and Late Woodland.

All types of Colonial ceramics on shown as an example.
Colonial Ceramics
European colonists imported a great variety of pottery, from around the world, after settlement of the Chesapeake region began.  This webpage describes some of the most common types used between the first settlement of Maryland in 1634 and the start of the American Revolution. The pottery that is found on 17th and 18th century archaeological sites in Maryland came from all over the world. Based on their firing temperatures and the clays used in their manufacture, ceramics are divided into three basic categories – Earthenwares and Stonewares and Porcelains. Differing methods of decorating and glazing further define specific ware types.

Post-Colonial Ceramics
Many new varieties of pottery were introduced to Maryland between the American Revolution and the late 19th century. The decorative techniques applied to these vessels can be used to distinguish the ceramic types, so this webpage is organized largely along those lines. Ceramic types currently included: Edged Wares; Painted Wares; Sponge Wares; Printed Wares; Dipped Wares; Luster Wares; White Granite; North American Stoneware; and
Less Commonly Found Wares

Click on each ceramic category above to see more information.

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Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab Updated: 11/30/10

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