This massive rim sherd is made of Surrey-Hampshire Border ware. What makes it unique is the large size of the vessel it comes from. Most English Borderware vessels are small forms such as pipkins (three-legged pots with handle), cheese strainers, drug jars, or candlesticks. The Arkansas Post sherd is from a very large vessel, such as a food storage/preparation jar or “crock.”
Pottery manufacture began as early as the thirteenth century in several centers along the borders of West Surrey and North East Hampshire counties in England (Figure 2). Earthenwares produced in the area from the mid-sixteenth through late-seventeenth centuries are classified as Surrey-Hampshire Border ware. Manufacture during this period flourished. This area, southwest of London, was the source for utilitarian ceramics for London and southeast English households (Jamestown Rediscovery 2021).
This sherd was found in archeological excavations in 1956 and 1957 at Arkansas Post National Memorial in southeast Arkansas (Holder 1957). There are two types of English Borderware, whitewares and redwares. The rim sherd from Arkansas Post is whiteware with a yellow glaze on its interior and exterior. The fact that it was glazed on both sides is also unusual. The paste is pink to buff-colored and is coarse. The large food preparation/storage vessel may have been made from after 1650 through the early eighteenth century (Diagnostic Artifacts in Maryland 2021).
The Arkansas Archeological Survey curates archeological collections from Arkansas Post National Memorial. As part of this responsibility, we have catalogued the collections in the National Park Service’s cataloging system and provided copies of the catalog data to the regional headquarters at the NPS’s Midwestern Archeological Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The late eighteenth century settlement at Arkansas Post was only one of seven forts and outposts located at the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers in what is now the state of Arkansas. This location was of strategic importance during the colonial period, when Britain, France and Spain were competing for control of America’s vast natural resources (Walthall 1991:98). These European powers also had interests in trade along the Mississippi River. The location of the post shifted over time due to changing routes and flooding of the Arkansas River. This was a perpetual difficulty. At the late eighteenth century Arkansas Post settlement of Ecores Rouge, a small Spanish military garrison protected a French creole population that was completely isolated from France (Walthall 1991:101).
The 1956-1957 archeological excavations at Arkansas Post were directed by archeologist Preston Holder. He was the only archeologist to direct excavations of colonial period deposits at Arkansas Post (Figure 3). Subsequent excavations focused on the nineteenth-century American town site. Holder hoped to discover the remains of the eighteenth-century French and Spanish forts in the area (Walthall 1991:101). Holder was unable to find evidence of the forts, but he did find several streets and house lots from the eighteenth-century French village. This is where the English Borderware rim sherd was found. Walthall (1991:102) concludes that, “Arkansas Post National Memorial contains the most extensive remains of an eighteenth century colonial village in public ownership in the Mississippi Valley region.” He goes on to state, “Holder’s field plans…reveal the partial plan of a unique eighteenth century colonial streetscape.”
The National Park Service’s protection, stewardship and interpretation of Arkansas Post National Memorial has preserved this uniquely important site since 1960.
1991. An Analysis of Late Eighteenth Century Ceramics from Arkansas Post at Ecores Rouges. Southeastern Archaeology 10:93-113.
Artifact of the Month Series
A first principle of archeology is that the significance of artifacts depends upon documented information about the context of their discovery. At what site was the artifact found? Can we figure out the age of the artifact? Where was it found in relation to site features (houses, trash deposits, activity areas, etc.) and the distribution of other artifacts? Only with knowledge of those facts can we assess further information about the manufacture and use of artifacts, and their role in other spheres of activity such as social organization, trade and exchange, and religious practice.
In this series, we feature select artifacts that are extraordinary both for the context of their discovery and for their unique qualities that contribute exceptionally important information about Arkansas culture and history. New artifacts will be added monthly. Find the list of artifacts here.