A Dragon Kiln in Carolina

By K. Kris Hirst, About.com Guide

excavation photoChinese Pottery Technology in the Antebellum American South

As modern humans, we tend to think of international trade, commercial innovation and mass production as strictly modern inventions, no more than a century or so old and certainly never dreamed of by our great-grandfathers. I know what you’re thinking–didn’t Henry Ford invent that stuff? But as archaeology teaches us over and over again, modern industrial revolutions are in fact based on centuries and even millennia of collaboration, innovation and espionage.

A Dragon Kiln in Carolina is the story of the origins of mass production of an innovative and revolutionary type of ceramic stoneware, pottery made beginning in the southern United States about 1815, with clay body and glaze recipes and equipment technologies borrowed in part from 6th century Chinese manufacturing. It is a tale of the import of an idea for an enormous, fiery pottery-making monster, aptly named a dragon kiln for its heat, length and high-maintenance characteristics, and it is one of technological transmission from China to South Carolina that the excavators have yet to completely understand.

The archaeological identification of a dragon kiln in the historic South Carolina pottery workshops called the Edgefield District was made by Christopher Fennell (U. Illinois), George Calfas (U. Illinois), Carl Steen (Diachronic Research Foundation), and Sean Taylor (S.C. Department of Natural Resources) during the summer of 2011, and I thank them sincerely for bringing the story to me, as well as providing photos and information to take the story to you.

Read full article and photo essay online http://archaeology.about.com/od/ceramics/ss/Dragon-Kiln-In-Carolina.htm

 

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