Prehistoric Pottery Vessel

Object of the Month: 02/2004

What is it?:

Prehistoric Pottery Vessel

Age: Approximately 2400 to 1700 years old
Where was it collected:

by Dr. Elden Johnson (SMM Archaeology) at the Sorg site (21DK1), Spring Lake, Dakota County, Minnesota; 1953


Approximately 50 cm tall X 30 cm diameter

Accession #: 2098

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Science Museum of Minnesota archaeologists found this large pottery vessel in 1953 during preliminary excavations of the Sorg site, a prehistoric habitation located on the shore of Spring Lake in Dakota County, Minnesota. The work was part of a three-year archaeological salvage project that resulted in the discovery and documentation of nine prehistoric habitation and burial mound sites around the lake. Approximately 40% of the vessel was found during excavation. The existing pieces were glued together; the missing areas were then filled in with plaster and decorated to match.

Archaeologists recognize pottery as useful markers of time, cultural identity, and interrelationships between people. This is because pottery styles and decorations change over time, according to who made it, and where those people acquired their ideas. Through the careful study of pottery, archaeologists can detect the development and exchange of ideas, and uncover clues into relationships between groups of people through prehistory.

Sorg vessel on display in the Mississippi River Gallery. The style of decoration on this vessel bears similarities to pottery of a comparable age found in the Illinois River valley, central Illinois. The similarity of design suggests to archaeologists that people in eastern Minnesota were interacting with people from several hundred miles (~500 miles) to the southeast. While the exact nature of this interaction is not known, it certainly included the exchange of ideas and resources, in addition to the artistic inspiration that is reflected in this pottery vessel.

This artifact and others depicting prehistoric life along the Mississippi River are currently on display in the Mississippi River Gallery.