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Sherds make up the vast majority of ceramic elements that are uncovered during archaeological excavations. If the excavators are lucky, an entire pot will have been broken in-situ and all of the sherds necessary to reconstruct the whole vessel will be present. However, this does not often happen! More frequently, the excavators uncover lots and lots of different sherds that cannot be easily reconstructed into whole vessels. potsherds tell archaeologists which types of paste were used in the site’s ceramic tradition, they can sometimes hint at which firing techniques were used to make finished ceramic vessels, and can even provide evidence for stylistic elements common to a site / region / population group. Not all potsherds are created equal, however. Sherds from a vessel’s body (or body sherds) provide the least amount of information overall, while sherd’s from a vessel’s rim (or rim sherds) tend to provide the most amount of information. For example, all of the sherds pictured here are rim sherds with various decorative schemes and handles - in fact, the handle element is so important that they have been recorded specifically as handle sherds. Because ceramic specialists can use this type of decorative feature to positively identify - or diagnose - a sherd as belonging to a specific type of Mississippian pottery, rim sherds are considered to be diagnostic sherds.


Pottery; Pottery Sherds; Mississippian