The Catalogue: Woodland Period Pottery

Late Woodland Aztalan Vessel- Wisconsin Archaeology Lab
Photographed by Wisconsin Archaeology Lab


The Woodland period is a prehistoric era commemorating the beginning of sedentary life throughout Eastern U.S. and Canada. Sedentism changed how food was obtained (hunting, early agriculture) and handled (storage, cooking). In archaeological contexts, Woodland period sites are largely defined by the presence of low-fired pottery.

Woodland period pottery is one of the earliest examples of clay bodied technology. With limited access to natural resources, one had to experiment with different ratios of clay, temper and heat to form distinctly shaped pots. Temper identification is the starting point for most analyses, which included materials such as plant fiber, sand, grog, bone, limestone and shell.

Communities were also using pottery production to express cultural identity. Regional distinctions are made based on decorative methods and/or schemes found on vessel bodies. Early vessels were linearly punctuated or engraved, while later productions included fabric impressions and complicated stamped motifs.


  • Kooiman, Susan M. “Woodland Pottery Function, Cooking, and Diet in the Upper Great Lakes of North America.” Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology 41.3 (2016): 207-230.
  • Tiffany, Joseph A. “MIDDLE WOODLAND POTTERY TYPOLOGY FROM SOUTHWEST IOWA.” Plains Anthropologist, vol. 23, no. 81, 1978, pp. 169–182.

The Catalogue is a collection of artifact-related posts from professional social media accounts.