The most distinctive material culture item of the ancestral Caddo groups that lived in East Texas (Figure 1) from ca. A.D. 900 to the 1830s were the ceramics they made primarily for cooking, storage, and serving needs. The decorative styles and vessel forms of ceramics found on sites in the region hint at the variety, temporal span, and geographic extent of a number of ancestral Caddo groups that lived in this area. The diversity in decoration and shape in Caddo ceramics is considerable, both in the utility ware jars and bowls, as well as in the fine ware bottles, carinated bowls, and compound vessels. Ceramics are quite common in domestic contexts on habitation sites across the region, and also occur as grave goods in mortuary contexts.
Figure 1. The Southern and Northern Caddo Areas in Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.
The Caddo made ceramics in a wide variety of vessel shapes, and with an abundance of well-crafted and executed body and rim designs and surface treatments. From the archeological contexts in which Caddo ceramics have been found, as well as through inferences about their manufacture and use, it is evident that ceramics were important to the ancestral Caddo in: the cooking and serving of foods and beverages, for the storage of foodstuffs, as personal possessions, as incense burners, as beautiful works of art and craftsmanship (i.e., some vessels were clearly made to never be used in domestic contexts), and as social identifiers. In the case of the later, certain shared and distinctive stylistic motifs and decorative patterns on ceramic vessels marked closely related communities and constituent groups.
The stylistic analysis of Caddo ceramics from sites in East Texas has focused on the definition of recognizable decorative elements, patterns, and motifs on the rim and/or body of the quite diverse fine wares (i.e., the engraved and red-slipped vessels, including carinated bowls and bottles) and utility wares, usually cooking or storage jars and simple bowls. These decorative distinctions have both temporal and geographical distributions across East Texas, and in some cases, across the broader Caddo area, and the recognition and unraveling of those distributions has been key to the reconstruction of settlement and regional histories of different Caddo communities as well as their socio-cultural character.
The stylistic distinctions that have been recognized in East Texas Caddo ceramics are based primarily on the pioneering typological research done by Alex D. Krieger, Clarence Webb, Dee Ann Suhm (Story) and Edward B. Jelks in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1962, Suhm and Jelks presented descriptions of 60 Caddo ceramic types that had been identified in Caddo sites in East Texas and the Caddo archeological area up to that time. According to Suhm and Jelks (2009:3), since 1962:
the Caddoan [sic] types, at least those found in Texas, have changed surprisingly little, more tweaked than substantially altered. Elsewhere in the Caddoan [sic] area, a relatively modest number (considering the amount of pottery usually found at the sites) of new types have been defined, although many varieties of existing types have been introduced and design motifs, even design element categories, have been recognized, especially by archeologists working in Arkansas.
While the ceramic types defined by Suhm et al. and Suhm and Jelks in 1954 and 1962, respectively, are still useful classificatory constructs for Caddo archeological research, a number of new Caddo ceramic types have been recognized in East Texas archeological sites since the mid-1960s—some better defined than others. Most of them are poorly known among archeologists that work on Caddo sites in the region. Some new varieties have also been identified among several of the well-known types defined in the 1950s, including Poynor Engraved, Hume Engraved, Ripley Engraved, and Wilder Engraved; these varieties may have more discrete temporal and geographic boundaries than when first defined.
Many archeologists working in the East Texas Caddo area continue to rely, erroneously, on the estimated ages of types offered by Suhm and Jelks (1962). However, with the advent of relatively extensive radiocarbon dating of Caddo sites in the region—and the seriation of burials in cemeteries of different ages—as well as many new archeological research investigations, much more accurate temporal estimates for the manufacture and use of ancestral Caddo pottery types are apparent. Distinctive sets of ceramic vessels and assemblages of different ages and areas within the region.
Table 1 represents our efforts to partition the known ancestral Caddo ceramic sets in East Texas. The stylistic diversity in the decorated wares on East Texas Caddo sites has led to the recognition of distinctive stylistic motifs and types that have unique spatial and temporal distributions (although these are still being refined) (Figures 2-5), and the distribution of these ceramic sets can be linked with the identification of culturally specific Caddo groups, phases, and vessel assemblages in the East Texas archeological record.
Table 1. East Texas and mid-Red River Caddo Ceramic Sets.
Early Caddo set, ca. A.D. 900-1300
Bowles Creek Plain
Coles Creek Incised
Crockett Curvilinear Incised
Duren Neck Banded
Hickory Engraved, var. Chapman
Weches Fingernail Impressed
Middle Caddo set, ca. A.D. 1100/1200-1300/1400, upper Red River, cf. Sanders phase, and in parts of East Texas
Leaning Rock Engraved
Maxey Noded Redware
Monkstown Fingernail Impressed
Washington Square Paneled
Middle Caddo set, lower Red River, ca. A.D. 1200-1400
Haley Complicated Incised
Allen phase, ca. post-A.D. 1650
Constricted Neck Punctated
Hood Engraved (effigy bowls)
La Rue Neck Banded
Belcher phase set, ca. A.D. 1500-1680
Latest Belcher phase set, 1680+ (and other post-1680 contexts)
Frankston phase set, ca. A.D. 1400-1650
Hood Engraved (effigy bowls)
La Rue Neck Banded
Poynor Engraved, multiple varieties
Kinsloe phase, post A.D. 1680-1830
McCurtain phase set, ca. A.D. 1300/1400-1700
Nash Neck Banded (shell)
Texarkana phase set, ca. A.D. 1400/1450-late 17th century
Keno Trailed (latest part of phase)
Nash Neck Banded
Titus phase set, ca. A.D. 1430-1680
Anglin Corn Cob Impressed
La Rue Neck Banded
Ripley Engraved, multiple varieties
Turner Engraved, multiple varieties
Wilder Engraved, multiple varieties
Latest set in Titus phase area, ca. A.D. 1680+ (best known at the Clements site (41CS25)
Post-A.D. 1680, mid-Red River and upper Sabine River basin
Figure 2. Important Early Caddo sites: 1, George C. Davis; 2, Fasken; 3, Roitsch; 4, Taddlock; 5, Hudnall-Pirtle; 6, Grace Creek; 7, Bison A; 8, Hale; 9, Boxed Springs; 10, Pace; 11, Boyette; 12, Joe Meyers; 13, Crenshaw; 14, Mounds Plantation; 15, Gahagan; 16, Jaggers; 17, Henry Chapman; 18, Bowman; 19, Bentsen-Clark. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.
Figure 3. Important Middle Caddo sites, major Red River Caddo centers occupied during the Middle Caddo period, and defined Middle Caddo period phases. 1, Harling; 2, Sanders; 3, Fasken; 4, Roitsch; 5, Holdeman; 6, Hatchel; 7, Hurricane Hill; 8, 41RR181 and Little Mustang Creek; 9, 41TT670; 10, 41CS150; 11, Coker (41CS1); 12, 41TT372; 13, 41FK70; 14, Benson’s Crossing; 15, Crabb (41TT650); 16, Harold Williams; 17, 41UR21; 18, Big Oaks; 19, Griffin Mound; 20, 41UR133; 21, 41UR8; 22, McKenzie; 23, Spoonbill; 24, 41RA65; 25, T. M. Moody; 26, 41WD518; 27, Yarbrough; 28, Charlie Crews; 29, Jamestown; 30, Carlisle; 31, Langford; 32, Bryan Hardy; 33, 41HS74; 34, Old Brown Place; 35, Oak Hill Village; 36, 41PN14; 37, Musgano (41RK19); 38, Pace McDonald; 39, 41CE42; 40, 41CE289; 41, George C. Davis; 42, 41CE290; 43, 41NA20; 44, Washington Square; 45, Tyson; 46, 41SA123; 47, 41SA89; 48, Knight’s Bluff; 49, 41FK7; 50, Hudnall-Pirtle; 51, Gray’s Pasture; 52. Redwine.
Figure 4. Late Caddo period phases in East Texas and immediately surrounding areas.
Figure 5. Clusters of Historic Caddo sites and defined phases. Figure prepared by Sandra Hannum.
Refining and further bracketing the age and intra-site chronological relationships of the ceramics in ancestral Caddo sites in East Texas remains to be fully accomplished, but work is underway through intensive radiocarbon dating efforts (including the dating of organic residues preserved on ceramic vessels and sherds). It is also important that the old and new ceramic types used in the region (including ceramic types yet to be recognized) be fully defined, and differences and similarities in ceramic decoration and manufacture be established. Such analyses can be employed then to answer questions of the social and cultural affiliation of ancestral Caddo groups, and the place of particular ceramic assemblages within specific communities of Caddo people.
Early, A. M.
2012 Form and Structure in Prehistoric Caddo Pottery Design. In The Archaeology of the Caddo, edited by T. K. Perttula and C. P. Walker, pp. 26-46. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln.
Perttula, T. K.
2013 Caddo Ceramics in East Texas. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 84:181-212.
Story, D. A. and E. B. Jelks
2009 Foreword. In Handbook of Texas Archeology: Type Descriptions, edited by D. A. Suhm and E. B. Jelks, pp. 1-5. Reprint Edition, Gustav’s Library, Davenport, Iowa.
Suhm, D. A., and E. B. Jelks (editors)
1962 Handbook of Texas Archeology: Type Descriptions. Special Publication No. 1, Texas Archeological Society, and Bulletin No. 4, Texas Memorial Museum, Austin.
Suhm, D. A., A. D. Krieger, and E. B. Jelks
1954 An Introductory Handbook of Texas Archeology. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 25:1-562.