Thoms Creek Shell Punctate

from David Anderson's Thoms Creek Type Description


The type Thom's Creek Shell Punctate was formally defined by Trinkley (1980b:15-16) based on a sample of 1095 sherds from 12 shell midden and ring sites from the sea island area of South Carolina. The diagnostic method of decoration is shell punctation, employing the tip of small gastropods (probably marsh periwinkle, Littorina sp.) and, less commonly, shell edges. This attribute was initially noted by Waddell (1963: Figure 2) in his description of Thom's Creek Punctate, but its occurrence has not been consistently reported in the literature. Similar shell punctations have been reported and illustrated within Stallings Punctate (e.g., Griffin 1945:161; Waring 1968a), highlighting the general similarity of the two series. 

The shell punctate variety only rarely occurs outside of the Sea Island area, a distribution that Widmer (1976a:43) has interpreted as reflecting a year round coastal adaptation by its makers. Trinkley (1980a:290-291) has offered two alternative explanations for the distribution, the first temporal (reed punctate is earlier than shell punctate) and the second related to manufacturing procedures (only readily available, expedient, punctating tools were used). Widmer (1976a:41) has argued that "the periwinkle could easily be incorporated into a tool kit" while Trinkley (1980a:290-291) has responded that the "Thom's Creek Series does not strongly suggest or support the idea of a potter's tool kit, but rather suggests that readily available items were picked up and pressed into service." Eleven sherds of Thom's Creek Shell Punctate were recovered at Mattassee Lake, some 40 miles into the interior. These sherds could be readily subsumed into collections from Sea Island sites, and it is possible that they came from that area.

Sorting Criteria

Individual (separate) shell punctations, typically formed by the tip of a small gastropod. Typically placed in rows parallel to the rim, zoned, curvilinear, or random motif less common (Trinkley 1980b:16). Paste contains substantial quantities of very fine, subrounded sand grains; few inclusions over 1.0 mm in size (over most specimens). General surface finish, rim and lip form similar or identical to that noted for Thom's Creek Reed Separate Punctate. 


From the Savannah River to the Santee River in the Sea-Island area of South Carolina. Infrequent in the interior. 

Chronological Position

Late Archaic period, Thom's Creek Phase (2000BC- 1000BC). Research by Trinkley (1980a:63-64, 287) suggests that the ware may date to the later part of the phase.  

Primary References

Waddell (1963), Hemmings (1972), Sutherland (1974), Trinkley (1975, 1976a, 1980a, 1980b); Anderson et al. (1982:258-260)