Austin Bell, Curator of Collections
Many of us know the feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing a particularly challenging jigsaw puzzle. We invest hours, days, weeks, or even months (if you’re slow like me) until a puzzle resembles the image on its box. Reconstructing prehistoric pottery is a lot like putting together a puzzle– except the pieces are hundreds of years old, usually not found together, and there is no visual aid. Imagine, then, the satisfaction that Ann Cordell, Ceramic Technologist at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville, must have felt when she recently reconstructed three nearly complete vessels from the MIHS collection. These pots are anywhere between 2,500 and 500 years old and had been lying in pieces under Marco Island shell and soil for centuries – until they were excavated in 2004. Ten years later, in advance of the Marco Island Historical Museum’s new permanent exhibit, the pieces have finally been reassembled for everyone to appreciate.
|The shards before reconstruction
||The bowl after reconstruction|
Though we know the general timeframe during which these pots were used (a 2,000 year window), more analysis will give us a better idea of exactly when. We know that one bowl likely dates to between 1,000 and 1,100 years ago based on its design (Key Largo Incised). The other two, however, have no diagnostic markings and can only be identified as “Glades Plain.” Thankfully, Cordell had the foresight to collect residue samples from the potsherds before reconstruction. These samples will be radiocarbon dated and the results will hopefully contribute to our understanding of pottery in this region. Look for the results in future newsletters.