Thursday, February 10, 2011

Exploring Kiln Shelves

Another exciting part of attending the Society for Historical Archaeology conference in Austin, was to finally meet up with a group of archaeologists who are planning to excavate a stoneware kiln in Edgefield, South Carolina this summer. I am happy to report that if all plans go well I will get to go down and help for several weeks! The Edgefield district is known largely for the pots made by Dave, who was an enslaved potter. While this is a fascinating aspect of the pottery, I am much more interested in the production aspects of the alkaline glazing and the design of kilns used. This is particularly interesting after a visit to Edgefield last fall where I got to see some interesting materials which were surface collected near a kiln site. If any of these things show up in the kiln excavated this summer, it will be very exciting.
Now, about those interesting materials in South Carolina:
Perhaps this should be titled "Eating My Words Part 2" for I found myself perplexed after this trip. Somewhere (I'm still hunting) I had heard or read that prior to the second quarter of the nineteenth century kiln shelves were not used in American stoneware kilns. I visited Edgefield, South Carolina and saw the following:

Kiln Shelf
It may look like a big piece of rock, but it is purported to be a kiln shelf dating from around the second quarter of the nineteenth century, from one of the early producers of alkaline glazed stoneware in the area.
It measures almost 1.5 inches thick. I cannot imagine having to lift an entire kiln shelf that thick! Much less an entire kiln full!

Measuring the thickness of the kiln shelf

Then there were the arched bricks from the kiln:

Arched bricks from the kiln
Arched bricks may not seem like much, but it gives an idea of the likely arch that made the ceiling of kiln.
And there were these pieces of kiln furniture which just baffled me:
Look closely at the fine either wire-cut marks or the scraping to shape the sides

Each piece had concave sides, similar to the shelf supports you see today!
The materials above are said to be shelf supports, which is likely, but the way they are designed is fascinating, and the workmanship on the furniture alone is fantastic! And it will be even more amazing when and if all of these kinds of materials are found this summer at the archaeological excavation in situ at the kiln site.
One of my favorite parts of the weekend was stopping for a cup of coffee in a small shop in Edgefield. The owners had taken their niece camping recently and upon returning she made the following signs:

"NO CAMPING A LAWD"[No camping allowed]

"P CUS BEARS ARE IN THE WOODS"[Because bears are in the woods]

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