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Artifact Spotlight: Colonoware

African American history, Archaeology

Colonoware Drayton Hall Collections charleston sc

Pictured: 18th century colonoware bowl with crenulated rim emulating an English-made Staffordshire slipware bowl. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection. 

Artifact spotlight: Colonoware

Only a small portion of the material culture in the archaeological collection can be specifically attributed to the enslaved populations that inhabited and worked the Drayton property. Colonoware, a low-fired coarse earthenware, is one of the only archaeological artifacts that directly represents the enslaved African and Native Americans who made, used, and traded this ceramic type. Colonoware as a ceramic tradition did not develop until the establishment of slavery in Colonial America when Europeans enslaved Africans and Native Americans together. Although many Colonoware vessels maintain some traditional forms used by these cultures before the influence of European culture, the introduction of new forms and decorations indicate both an exchange of ideas between the enslaved groups as well as influences from European ceramics.

Our ongoing research of Colonoware offers a unique window into the lives and ceramic traditions of the enslaved. Corey Heyward, our Wexler Curatorial Fellow, is working closely with the Digital Archaeological Archive of Comparative Slavery (DAACS, operated out of Monticello) and the greater archaeological community to research Drayton Hall’s vast assemblage of Colonoware. Collaborating with other institutions is essential for analyzing artifacts and unraveling the narratives behind them so that we can further our understanding of the Africans and Native Americans who were enslaved on the Drayton Hall property. Corey is presenting her preliminary research on Drayton Hall Colonoware at the Society for Historical Archaeology conference the month to discuss the assemblage with other archaeologists and further expand our research.

Colonoware Drayton Hall Collections Charleston SC

Pictured: 18th century colonoware bowl. Drayton Hall Archaeological Collection.