Pottery was made in South Carolina for more than 4,500 years, and during that time it was made by different individuals and groups using the materials available and the methods they were taught as children. But there are also elements of learning, experience, aptitude, and adaptation, so resulting changes emerge that may be evident immediately, or which may evolve over time. So the ceramic vessels made by potter A may be a little different than the vessels made by her granddaughter, potter B. The differences may be as obvious as the surface treatment, or as obscure as the choice of temper. And the difference may lie in the abilities and values of the individual potter as well. So subtle variability is the rule, not the exception.
As a result early archaeologists adopted a form of taxonomic classification from biology to sort out the differences. In this hierarchy a series or ware group may be the main grouping, while internally varieties or more specific types mark variation. The type-variety (Anderson 1982) and series-type (Herbert 2003) or ware group (South 1976) frameworks have been used in South Carolina. At the highest level of abstraction a variant of South's ware group framework will be used to organize the various types.
A pottery type is usually defined as a suite of co-occurring variables that sets one group of sherds apart from others. As discussed in the Analysis section (link) researchers past and present have looked at things like surface treatment, decoration, vessel form, and paste recipe to define types. This definition of types is thought to have important implications for temporal and cultural issues. For an obvious example, the presence of complicated stamped Pee Dee pottery at Town Creek marks both a temporal horizon, because it was adopted in rapid fashion, and in that it reflects the movement of a people and its attendant cultural practices, a cultural horizon as well.
David Anderson revised his 1975 and 1976 type descriptions in 1996 for a planned COSCAPA publication. He gracefully offered their use on this web site, and they form the basis for the type discussions at the links. The first link will lead to an introduction by the author which will link to Anderson's definitions and definitions made by others. In preparing for this web site I met with David Anderson at the SCIAA and photographed the type collection that he assembled during his 1975 study. Images will be found on linked pages. When other researchers type descriptions and images are used they will be credited directly.
Given that the changes in pottery occur along a continuum for the most part, there are many cases where sherds may share characteristics that would cause one observer to call them type A while another might call them type B. Further, there are disagreements among researchers about just what it is that makes one type distinct from another.
Joel Gunn may have put it best when he said that he had reviewed existing type descriptions and used them as a "communication device without presuming their validity." (Gunn 1995:167). In that spirit, as much as possible at least, the series/type/ware groups and phases discussed by people researching pottery in South Carolina are briefly introduced at the links to the left.