Prehistoric Pottery Links St. Croix’s Past and Present

At an approximately 700-year-old village, the river's bounty made for stronger ceramics.

 

About 700 years ago, someone from a village of Native American people we call the Oneota went down to the St. Croix River near present-day Marine on St. Croix and gathered mussel shells. They ground the shells into a powder, mixed it with clay, and created pottery which was used for storing food or cooking.

The mussel shells were a key innovation of Oneota potters. For a long time, they added crushed rock to their clay to prevent cracking as it dries. Around the year 1100 A.D., they switched to mussels, allowing them to make bigger, lighter pots with thinner walls. Archaeologists estimate that an Oneota pot found near La Crosse, Wisconsin could hold 15 to 20 gallons, with walls that were one-third of an inch thick.

All thanks to clam shells.

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