Rediscovery of Stories in Fire and Clay
Pottery making is an ancient tradition with connections to people, places, resources, and beliefs. A team of Shawnee people and pottery experts are exploring and reawakening this tradition. Together they are researching the construction of ancient pots, collecting clay, restoring the resources needed for pottery manufacture, and examining the connections between pottery and Shawnee history. This exhibit invites visitors to explore the art and science of Fort Ancient style pottery with hands-on activities.
Here It Is
Image provided by: Courtesy Ohio History Connection, Om1502_1160522_001
“What was our ancestor's pottery like?”
To answer this question, Shawnee tribal citizens worked with archaeologists, anthropologists, scientists, and a Wyandot potter to study ancestral ceramics and learn to make pots.
Storage or Cooking Pot
The first Fort Ancient pots were jars—wide-mouthed cylindrical containers. By the fifteenth century, people also created small bowls, large shallow platters, and jars with round bases and flared rims. Potters often decorated jars with designs around the neck of the vessel. These watertight containers had many functions.
Prepare Mussel Shell
One of the most difficult steps in recreating Fort Ancient style pottery was figuring out the temper. Vessels from Ohio and Kentucky contain different types of temper, such as limestone and mussel shell.
You make it
There are many ways to make clay vessels. For example, some potters use the coil method to make vessels. In this method, potters stack long rolls of clay and then smooth them together.
Image provided by: Courtesy Ohio History Connection, A2121_000525
In addition to their many uses, ceramics are a medium where potters can express their identity, artistic talents, and beliefs. The designs ancient potters carved into clay reflect their training, the styles common to their families and communities, as well as personal expression.
Stand in front
Researchers have a history of studying Native American people without their involvement or consent, treating Indigenous communities as research subjects rather than partners. Such studies often present skewed or incorrect results, findings that do not take into consideration the knowledge, values, or worldview of Native people.
Think about it (study it)
Clay vessels have distinct characteristics. Their size, shape, and decoration record details about their uses as well as the people who made them. Other information is hidden from view.