Woodland and Mississippian Vessel Forms

Woodland Period

Types of Bowls

Ceramic production was a relatively new concept during the Woodland Period, and there was not a tremendous variety of vessel forms. In fact, bowls were often carved from soapstone rather than being ceramic, and those which were ceramic were of the simplest types.

Types of Jars

Jars were by far the most common vessel form during the early period. Some had flat bottoms or were provided with four short legs. The most common type, however, was the "conoidal-based" pot, seen at left. This form is an indicator of the Woodland Period, as later it was rather uncommon.

Mississippian Period

Types of Bowls

A far greater variety of vessel forms existed during the Mississippian Period. Bowls were made from clay rather than stone. Forms ranged from wide, shallow types to globular bowls with slightly incurving rims. The rims of most bowls were either beveled or provided with simple filleted decoration. Some bowls also had flared rims which were decorated in some manner along the exterior of the rim.

Types of Jars

A jar is distinguished from a globular bowl in that its opening is more constricted, and may also have a short neck. The globular jar seems to have been the most prevalent type, generally provided with a short rim or neck. Lugs, which are loops added to the rim through which a cord might be run to suspend the pot, were common features. Jars with necks tend not to have lugs, as they could usually be grasped by the neck. The deep jar, similar to the conoidal-based jars of the Woodland Period, remained, but now usually had the characteristic rim and slightly flattened bottom.

Types of Bottles

Bottles differ from jars in that they have much longer and narrower necks. They were used to store water, and were most often utilitarian and undecorated. Those which were used for ceremonial purposes, however, were provided with painted or incised decoration.

Hooded Bottles

The hooded "bottle" is really more like a globular jar, but the very constricted opening, provided in the back of the "head" of the vessel, places it in the bottle category. Hooded bottles are invariably small - about 4" to 7" tall - and are nearly always in the form of some animal or human.

Effigy Vessels

One of the unique features of Mississippian pottery, as compared with earlier Woodland types, is the prevalence of effigy vessels, that is, pottery which is made in the form of an animal or human. Common subjects are those found in the everyday life of river peoples - fish, beaver, opossum, shells and wildcats.

Humans effigies were also very popular, often only distinguishable by a face. The most peculiar effigy type is the hunchback. This deformity must have been fairly common, and those afflicted were often revered as shamans. 


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