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Ancient Pottery of the Mississippi Valley
Fourth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the
Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1882-83,
Government Printing Office, Washington, 1886, pages 361-436

written by "Holmes, William Henry, 1846-1933"
...as known, although varieties of improvised molds—baskets, gourds, and the like, such as are known to nearly all pottery-making peoples—were frequently employed. The highest degree of finish known was attained by the application of a slip or wash of fine clay which was given a good degree of mechanical polish by means of a smooth implement held in the hand. Ornament was produced by both flat and plastic methods. The colors used in painting were white, black, and red earths. The plastic subjects were incised, stamped, relieved, and modeled in the round. The period was one of open-air baking, a moderate degree of hardness [page 435] being secured. The texture was porous and the vessels were without resonance. The paste exhibits two distinct varieties of color which may be described roughly as light and dark. A certain range of dark hues—blacks, browns, and grays—were probably produced by "smother baking." Another set of colors embracing light reddish and yellowish grays resulted from changes in the clay produced by simple open air baking. A feature worthy of especial note is the great diversity of form—indicating a long practice of the art, a high specialization of uses, and a considerable variety in the originals copied. The manual skill exhibited is of no mean order. Symmetry of form combined with considerable grace of outline has been achieved without the wheel—a result attained in still greater perfection by other American races. Notwithstanding the great diversity of the forms of vessels, the very primitive condition of the art is indicated by the absence of bricks, tiles, whistles, lamps, spindle-whorls, toys, and statuettes. The models from which the vessels were copied must have been quite varied, comprising shells of mollusks—marine and fresh-water—gourd shells of varying shapes, and vessels of wicker, bark, horn, and wood, such as are in common use with our western and northe...

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