The typical Great Oasis vessel is a globular jar that exhibits grit tempering
(often crushed igneous rock), and a rounded shoulder, constricted neck,
and out-flaring rim. No handles are present. An anvil and cord-wrapped
paddle were utilized in the manufacture of the vessels, with the cord
marking often completely or partially smoothed over. Decorative elements
are mainly confined to the rim exterior and are linear as opposed to curvilinear.
Trailing is utilized for the decorative elements, and some designs on
Great Oasis High Rim ceramics are trailed versions of cord-impressed designs
found to the east and west (Benn 1990a:141-142; Henning and Henning 1978:15;
Johnston 1967:71; Tiffany 1991:188; Wood 1962:33).
Metric attributes recorded for High Rims (left) and Wedge Lips (right) during the Cowan ceramic analysis.
The lower band is that area of the rim which adjoins the upper band and extends downward toward the rim-shoulder juncture. The lower band can best be seen as consisting of a field, or background, to which decorative motifs have been applied (Henning and Henning 1978). This field can be plain or decorated with horizontal or diagonal lines. Decorative motifs which are applied to this field include triangles (zigzags) (apex pointing up), pendant triangles (apex pointing down), oblique lines, trapezoids, and diamonds, as well as designs which have been interpreted as running deer (sometimes termed "flag and dot"), turkey tracks, and inverted turkey tracks. Other motifs, interpreted as representing arrows, maize, and trees also occur but are rare.
Occasionally a middle band is also present on High Rim ceramics. This band is located between the upper and lower bands and is either plain or contains horizontally or diagonally trailed lines.
Decorative elements on Great Oasis Wedge Lip ceramics occur on the lip-rim exterior margin or the flattened lip surface. Designs include crosshatching, tool impressions, or a combination of both. Usually, however, Wedge Lip ceramics are plain. The bodies of Wedge Lip vessels are sometimes decorated with horizontally parallel lines which encircle the vessel primarily from the neck to the shoulder area.
The ceramic assemblage is one of the largest artifact assemblages at the Cowan site (32,000+ sherds) and represents the largest analyzed Great Oasis ceramic assemblage in Iowa. This sample provides the opportunity to closely examine Great Oasis wares and decoration and to add insights into intrasite patterning.
Wedge Lips are the most common vessel form at Cowan, accounting for 54 percent of the rim assemblage, followed by High Rims at 41 percent. While the majority of the Wedge Lips are undecorated, the most common lower band motif found on High Rims is triangles and pendant triangles, with other motifs such as diamonds, running deer, inverted turkey tracks, and spaced oblique lines also occurring. A previously unreported treatment of the lower band field was noted at Cowan, that of dividing the field into rectangular panels. Three D-shaped rims were recovered from the Phase III investigation, with one additional D-shaped rim found during the Phase I survey. These four sherds fit into the range defined as Mill Creek Chamberlain rims. Based in part upon the lack of other diagnostic Mill Creek artifacts from Cowan, however, these rims are considered to be part of the Great Oasis assemblage. No Middle Mississippian influences are seen on the Cowan ceramics.
A previously unrecognized Great Oasis ware has been named at Cowan. This ware is represented by S-shaped rims and appears to represent an earlier stage of development of Foreman ware. S-shaped rims are a minor ware at both Great Oasis and Mill Creek sites, accounting for 1-2 percent of the assemblage at Great Oasis sites and 2-5 percent at Mill Creek sites.
Cowan | General Contracts Program
Webpage originally by Tim Reed March 19, 1999.
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