North American Stoneware is a type of ceramic that is often characterized by a brown or gray salt glaze that creates a textured, orange-peel surface. Stoneware is non-porous, which means that water is not absorbed into the ceramic. That makes it ideal for dining and food storage. Stoneware was used to make bowls, plates, pitchers, tankards and chamber pots. American stoneware was a common replacement for more expensive dining options, such as porcelain, and was used for food preparation and storage.
The versatility of this ceramic made it a popular export of both Germany and England to the North American colonies. By the mid-18th century, stoneware using the traditional decoration styles of both Germany and England was being produced in North America. American-made stoneware is found in archaeological sites throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, including Fairfax County. These artifacts help identify when a site was occupied, and the ceramic form often indicates specific activities that took place within the site.
For more information about artifacts and current excavations around Fairfax County, see the archaeology blog at cartarchaeology.wordpress.com.
Photo: Shard of hand-painted, North American Stoneware recovered from an archaeological site near Centreville, Va.