Lesson Plan

Timucua Pottery

Timucuan face painting
A Timucua reenactor paints the face of a child.
NPS Photo

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Subject:
American Indian History and Culture, Archaeology
Duration:
30 Minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
Setting:
classroom
National/State Standards:
SS.A.6.2.5, VA.A.1.2.1, VA.A.1.2.2, VA.A.1.2.3, VA.A.1.2.4

Overview

Students will create their own pottery using flour, salt, water, and cream of tartar, and will decorate their pottery with natural materials.

Objective(s)

Students will create their own pottery and decorate them with natural materials while learning about the tools and culture of the Timucuan Indians.



Background

Timucua potters made their pots from clay deposits found in the area. They also made patterns on their pots. Patterns served a number of purposes: 1) they allowed heat to be more evenly distributed while cooking, 2) they made the pots easier to hold so they wouldn't slip from your hands, 3) they made the pots beautiful.
Timucua potters would make decorations on their pots using: 1) wooden paddles: most often these had straight lines carved in them both vertically and horizontally, and when pressed against the clay they produced a checker board pattern that archaeologists call "check-stamping" 2) pointed objects: a pointed object, such as a stick with a carved tip, would be scratched across the surface to produce patterns of lines, both curved and straight. Archaeologists call this "incised" pottery.
Other groups of Florida Indians decorated their pots with: 1) shells to stamp a pattern 2) corn cobs to roll a pattern 3) cord or woven material wrapped around a wooden paddle and pressed onto the surface. Clay pots were used by the Timucua for storing and cooking food. They made their pots using the "coiling" method. They did this by rolling the clay into long circular "tube" shapes. These were made into circles or rings, then stacked and blended together one at a time to form a circular pot. Pots were air dried then heated in an open fire to harden. Clay pots are very heavy. When these vessels broke, the broken pieces were thrown into a trash pile, called a midden. Archaeologists can learn a lot from trash middens. When they find a broken piece of pottery they can tell how old it is by looking at the designs on it.



Procedure

Follow the recipe to make the clay:

1 c. Flour

2 t. Cream of Tarter

1/2 t. Salt

1 c. Water

Mix all ingredients in a pan over medium heat, stirring constantly until a ball forms or about 4 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool for about 5 minutes. Divide and knead dough pieces with food coloring or a drop of vanilla for scent (optional). Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 

Have students shape the dough into a bowl or cup. They can try coiling their pots like the Timucua did. 

Provide different natural materials for students to use to make patterns on their pots. Ideas can be found at http://pelotes.jea.com



Vocabulary

Timucuan, Coiling