Transcript of video with Barbara Heath

I'm Barbara Heath. I'm a professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee There is one tradition of pottery production in the West Indies and we have a lot of questions about who was making it, where was it being made, was it being made by individuals or trade potters, was it being traded within islands, between islands or pretty much produced on plantations where people were living? So one way to get at this is to look at the individual potsherds that were made and to look at how they changed over time, in terms of form and composition. So part of the study here is to do a compositional study, looking for trace elements within the actual clay that potters were using and trying to distinguish different sources of clay which would then tell us whether pots were being made at one location and disseminated across a small or large region or whether they were being made by individuals exploiting individual clay sources. There are two parts to this study. One part is looking at the mineralogical composition of the clay and looking at how geology can help us source clay sources; the other is looking at trace elements within the clay itself which is being done through instrumental neutron activation. So if you look at a piece of pottery you can't really tell what chemicals make it up but by putting it into a nuclear reactor and going through a process which separates elements from within the clay and measuring their gamma rays as they disperse you can get very accurate information about where those elements are coming from. So part of the study is collecting sherds sorting through thousands of sherds which have been excavated and choosing which ones we need to look at for analysis. The other part is collecting clay itself so we also need something to compare the historic pottery to. So part of the project is to look at clay sources from Jessups and New River which is where the project is doing historical archaeology where the sherds are coming from, and looking to see whether the clay there matches the sherd composition. We have taken clay, we are in the process of processing it and burning it so that it can go through customs and get to the analysts. I have also been experimenting with actually making pots to see how well the clay works and whether a potter in the past would have been able to use this clay without any modifications in order to make vessels that would stand up to firing and would dry successfully. In some cases as stuff dries it's just collapsing and that suggests that the mix of clay and its natural constituents just isn't just good enough for pottery production. In other cases the pottery seems to be holding up well which suggests this could possibly be a source that was being used by the men or women or both who making pots historically at Jessups.