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Ceramic Discoidals & Game Pieces

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  • Ceramic Discoidals & Game Pieces

    Discoidal Game Pieces from Pottery Sherds

    The most ubiquitous form of Mississippian pottery is the "standard Mississippi jar," or a globular jar with a recurved rim and subtle shoulders. In the Pensacola culture of Florida, broken potsherds were rounded off and reused as discoidal game pieces [From Wikipedia].

    Here’s the abstract for “The Ceramic Discoidal in the Southeastern United States” by Thomas A. Potter & Ian W. Brown, Ph.D., Professor of Anthropology – published in the University of Alabama McNair Journal:

    Often overlooked as an ever-present but still insignificant Native American artifact by most archaeological researchers, the ceramic discoidal was manufactured from readily available materials, often from discarded or broken ceramic vessels. The commonplace origin of the discoidal does not reflect its importance in the lives of Native Americans, which is reflected by its almost universal distribution in time and space. Generally regarded by archaeologists as gaming pieces, or counters, discoidals are often grouped with sherds without consideration that they were continually manufactured for specific purposes by Native Americans. While the function of the discoidal is elusive, this research attempts to determine regularity of form by assessing the physical properties of a sample of discoidals, with the expectation that some notion of function will be forthcoming. The primary site chosen for this study was Moundville (1TU500), the second largest Mississippian site in North America. I also compare the findings from Moundville with those from collections from several other sites in the Southeast. Classifying ceramic discoidals by comparing their physical properties helps us understand how discoidals were utilized and valued by Native Americans.

    You can download the full paper as a pdf file here:
    I keep six honest serving-men (they taught me all I knew); Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who.