Design Motifs

To add extra decorative elements to their wares, many Catawba potters employ incised designs. Unfortunately, while archaeologists often excavate incised Catawba pieces in their digs, to date no one has found a site that reveals the complete body of Catawba motifs. This is true even for the area within just a few miles of the Catawba Reservation and historic living sites in both York and Lancaster counties in South Carolina.

In the summer of 2002, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's department of archaeology conducted surface tests of the Catawba villages of Turkey Head, New Town, Twelve Mile Creek, Old Town, Cheraw Town, Weyanne Town, and Sucah Town (Steven Davis and Brett H. Riggs, personal communication, BC). Their preliminary findings, discussed in November 2002, may help solve the mystery of the apparent break in incising between the eighteenth century and the present. To date, parts of large vessels found are most often decorated on the rim. This is especially true at the towns examined. It is not unusual to find shards decorated not with incising but with a delicate strip of red or yellow paint on the rim.

The only vessel found with incising, the feather motif, consists of two pipe fragments unearthed at the Catawba village site at Turkey Head (SOC 617, Bower's Cabin, Research Laboratories of Anthropology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, 2002). Upon examining the pottery studied from the mid-nineteenth century to the present, it appears that perhaps only pipes were incised until the early twentieth century. Many of the larger vessels so decorated are the work of Susannah Harris Owl. It is possible that she may have begun decorating vessels such as pitchers and bowls in response to her efforts to provide tourists to Cherokee with American Indian art.

The Catawba potters traditionally use very simple incised line designs on their pottery. The small number of motifs include the barred oval, cross, sun circle, swastika, and the feather. Other designs merely

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