Ault Park Artifacts


Ceramic dentate and pseudo-scallop rim sherds


Chert projectile points


Red painted ceramic

Painted Ceramics?

Painted ceramics on Ontario sites appear to be quite rare.  However, it may be that researchers have overlooked them.  A few site reports have mentioned small numbers of ceramic sherds that have reddish paint on them.  N. Adams wrote a short article in 1979 in Arch Notes, the newsletter of the Ontario Archaeological Society, which summarized 9 sites from the Middle Woodland timeperiod which had red painted sherds in their collections.  Adams mentioned that the Whitefish Island site near Sault Ste. Marie had red paint on 14 vessels or approximately 3% of the recovered sherds.  He found that in all but one case, the paint had been applied to the lip of the pot.  Adams concluded in his article that painted ceramics were a phenomenon of the Middle Woodland timeperiod (approx. 300 B.C. to 700 A.D.).  

The curator of this exhibit has seen red painted ceramics from the Ault Park site near Cornwall, the Benson site (mid 1500s) near the Trent River, and the MacLeod site (mid 1400s) in Oshawa.   Red painted ceramics have also been reported from the Grandview site (ca. A.D. 1400-1450) in Oshawa and the Bark site (ca. A.D. 1400-1500) near Peterborough.  In response to a request for information on painted ceramics that the curator put out on the computer listserv of the Ontario Archaeological Society, red painted ceramics have been found on the Serpent Mounds site, the East Sugar Island site (Middle Woodland), the Ball site (late 1500's) near Warminster, the Arbor Ridge site (1400's) in Kingston and the Lougheed site near Barrie. 

Most of the reported painted ceramics have a red wash on the outside of the pot or the lip.  However, some ceramics have red paint on the inside surface of the pot.  This pigment on the interior could indicate that the paint was stored or mixed in those pots. 

Black stripes of paint have also been discovered on Ontario ceramics, although this is even more rare than red paint (see the Thompson artifacts web page for information on black painted ceramics).

 The occurrence of painted ceramics seems to be more widespread than just the Middle Woodland time period.  As researchers become more aware of the possibility of painted ceramics, they may be noticed more often in collections.  Much more research is necessary into this interesting aspect of Ontario ceramics.