Potomac Creek Pot

Project details

  • Object number – 689-JR
  • Material – Clay
  • Place of Origin – Virginia
  • Date – c. 1607-1610
  • Context – James Fort Bulwark Trench
  • Location – Archaearium
  • Category – Virginia Indian, Exchange, Foodways

Potomac Creek pottery is usually found by the Potomac River, but it also has been found on sites west to the Piedmont and south into Henrico County. It was not surprising to find it at James Fort, considering the important role the Patawomekes played in the native trading network. (The name Patawomeke means trading center because of its location on the great natural trade route of the Potomac River, connecting the Chesapeake Bay and the Appalachian Mountains.) John Smith traded for food there in 1608 during his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay.

Potomac Creek vessels have globular bodies and straight or slightly out-turned rims. The body of the pot is made of compact, hard clay tempered with crushed quartz and/or sand grains. The rim of the pot found at Jamestown has been impressed with a cord-wrapped dowel. This pot still contained cooked food residues when it was unearthed. A sherd from the pot was tested and found to contain fatty acids, cholesterol, and sitosterol, a plant compound. Analysis of the molecular makeup of the residue points to a C4 plant, which indicates corn because maize is the only C4 plant in the eastern United States. In addition, the presence of nitrogen in the sample suggests a small amount of meat or flesh from an animal quite low on the food chain, such as deer. Indians may have brought the pot into the fort already containing the prepared stew of meat and corn, but once the stew was consumed, the colonists would have had no use for a round-bottom cooking pot that could easily roll off their tables, and they would have discarded it.