Decorative Arts

The Origins of Pottery

Image of early decorated ceramic jar fragment.

Early Decorated Ceramic Jar Fragment.

To understand the significance of the invention of pottery, consider the modern Sunday barbecue where one might hear the sizzle of grease from the hamburger as it drips through the grill and into the fire. But for Native people, the fat going up in smoke represented the loss of crucial calories. Hunters spent hours of physical exertion stalking, killing, butchering, and transporting their game home. Meats and other foods were then cooked by placing the pot in a fire with no loss of those hard-won calories.

Wood and Plant Fiber Fabric

Image of Wood and Plant Fiber Fabric

Early Late Woodland, ca. A.D. 550 - 850 Newbridge Site, Greene County, Illinois

This carbonized, woven fabric was recovered in 1974 during archaeological excavations at the Newbridge site in Greene County, Illinois, by Northwestern University. Perhaps part of a fringed skirt, the fabric is approximately 1150 to 1450 years old, dating from the early portion of the Late Woodland period.

Brass Crucifix

Image of Brass crucifix

Brass crucifix LaSalle Co., ~ 300 years old

A harbinger of a changing world.  French explorers and voyageurs arrive in the late 17th century.  Their presence will transform Native American life and foretell of even more profound change to come.  The forces of colonization nearly extinguish Native American life in Illinois.

Pottery Bowl

image of pottery bowl  with spoonbill decoration from Pike County, Illinois.
Two thousand years ago, the Native American artisan who created this small clay pot drew an abstract image of what appears to be a bird in the soft clay. What is the meaning of the image? Such puzzles are common in archaeology, and answers generally begin with the phrase "to the best of our knowledge."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Decorative Arts