Last Sunday, during an early morning walk along Peachtree Creek here in Atlanta, I came upon this potsherd, just 2 by 3 inches, but with a big story to tell. By its style, it is likely to be Swift Creek ware, typical of the Woodland period of the southeast native Americans, and at least 1000 years old.
Made as a coil pot, not on the wheel, the pot was decorated by a carved wood paddle stamped into the wet clay, and probably fired in a campfire, maybe nearby. Many a Sunday morning I have taken this walk along a tributary to the creek, past a grey clay bank, and under huge cottonwoods to a sandy shoal. Some mornings I have found other pieces – few as grand as this one – but I am always cheered to think I’m near some ancient campsite.
The birds are chattering in the brush, a red-tailed hawk watches from a tall dead poplar, and a great blue heron lumbers away, just as I arrive. Let’s decorate a pot today, I think, what pattern shall we use? I’m thinking of the rippled water over the ledge of rock that flows into the little pool nearby, where fingerlings dart quickly out of harm’s way.