The Florida Museum Ceramic Technology Laboratory (CTL) was established in 1977 under the direction of Dr. Prudence Rice, then UF professor of Anthropology (now Distinguished Professor Emerita at SIU, Carbondale, IL). Pottery analysis plays an integral role in archaeological research at Florida Museum as it constitutes the predominant material remaining at most archaeological sites investigated by museum curators. In addition pottery makes up a very significant proportion of the Florida Museum Anthropology collections. The CTL is equipped for basic paste characterization studies: binocular microscope for gross identification of temper or paste constituents; a petrographic microscope for precise mineral identification in thin section; and an electric furnace used for refiring experiments and for comparative investigation of clay samples collected from the vicinity of archaeological sites. The CTL maintains three important collections. First is an extensive pottery type collection of prehistoric and historic period aboriginal pottery from Florida and the Southeastern U.S. Second, the CTL curates clay samples from throughout Florida and neighboring areas that were collected to document geographic variability in clay mineralogy and chemistry. Finally, the CTL maintains a comparative “library” of pottery and clay sample thin sections, generated primarily from characterization studies conducted here at the CTL.
Pottery figures prominently in research conducted by museum curators, staff, and students. The lab’s mission is to generate precise data to address research questions regarding chronology, provenance or manufacturing origins, processes of production, patterns of vessel use, culture change, and the development of sociopolitical and economic complexity in prehistoric Florida, the Southeastern US, and the Caribbean Basin.
Pottery is one of the most common and durable artifacts on many archaeological sites throughout the world, and these qualities make it especially important for understanding past societies and cultures. In addition, pottery-making is highly patterned in time and space, reflecting technological, functional, and stylistic variation and change. Pottery not only provides the basis for relative chronologies but also has helped archaeologists investigate diet, cuisine, technological change, social learning, social boundaries, kinship, trade and exchange, migration, demography, and many other topics. As such, the analysis of pottery often forms a cornerstone of archaeological research programs.
The comparative database and equipment at the lab enables students and staff to incorporate pottery analysis into their research programs and also fosters synergistic collaborations among unaffiliated researchers.
The CTL operates under the supervision of Ann Cordell, who also conducts most of the research projects undertaken by the lab. The facilities are also used by UF and visiting scholars and graduate students. Also see Staff page.