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Unlike many of the other ceramics excavated from areas of Mount Vernon, this fragment was made locally of an earthenware called colonoware. Colonoware is an unglazed coarse earthenware fired at a low temperature, which is hand-built from local clays, rather than thrown on a potter’s wheel. The paste of this ceramic often contains sand, grit, or shell temper to help bind the clay. Archaeologists believe that colonoware was made by Native Americans and African Americans in forms that sometimes mimicked their English counterparts and sometimes drew inspiration from indigenous or African forms. This ware type is often excavated on archaeological sites associated with the enslaved.

There are no documentary traces of colonoware at Mount Vernon, but numerous vessels have been recovered from sites such as the South Grove Midden and the House for Families. Despite the quantities recovered, we have yet to find evidence of its manufacture on the estate, suggesting colonoware was distributed regionally in an informal economy – bartered or sold at local markets or peddled from plantation to plantation.

This bowl displays the visible facets of burnishing which is a common technique on these vessels. In burnishing a stone is rubbed on the surface of the unfired ceramic vessel to create a smooth surface treatment. Simple bowls, like this, were likely used in cooking, preparing, and consuming meals, possibly serving as vessels to dish out single servings of stews or other liquid-based meals among the individuals residing in the House for Families quarter

Object Type

Has it Been Conserved?


Where Was It Found?

Project Site: House for Families [more details]


Coarse Earthenware



Manufacturing Technology

Handbuilt, unidentifiable




Body, Rim

Decorative Technology

Burnished (w/ visible facets)

Decorative Notes

Interior and exterior.


Country of Origin

United States


9.5mm x 0mm x 10mm (W x H x L)

Illustration shows object in comparison to the size of a quarter


0.2 gram(s)

Object Number

1719711. Colono V.1

DAACS Number


Project: House for Families

The structure identified as the “House for Families” on the 1787 Vaughan plan likely housed the majority of the enslaved population living at the Mansion House Farm for much of the second half of the eighteenth century. The building was in existence from circa 1760 until it was demolished in late 1792 or early 1793. The archaeological evidence for the structure consisted of a brick-lined storage cellar (44FX762/40-47) measuring roughly six feet by six feet. Historically the cellar served as a handy trash receptacle once it ceased to be used for its original storage function, and through extensive excavation has yielded an extremely rich assemblage of household refuse. The analysis of these remains offers the opportunity to study important aspects of the daily lives of Mount Vernon's enslaved community.

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Mount Vernon's object research is ongoing and information about this object is subject to change. For information on image use and reproductions, click here.