Pottersville: Home of Alkaline Glazed Stoneware

Pottersville tracks the excavation of an alkaline glazed stoneware kiln that operated in the first half of the 19th century. These stoneware vessels were the “Tupperware” of the time. With over 13,000 enslaved Africans in the Edgefield district, storage vessels for pork, beans, okra and other staples were essential to plantation life in the days before refrigeration. Today, the work of Dave the Slave Potter and the African-influenced “face jugs” are in the collections of prestigious museums such as the Smithsonian and sought by private collectors, including both Bill Cosby and Oprah.

Through the summer of 2011, I shot on location near Edgefield, SC, as the University of Illinois’ Department of Archaeology, led by Dr. George Calfas, unearthed the largest industrial slave-operated kiln ever found. Soon, it was evident that the team’s surprising discoveries were of interest to other archaeologists and historians. So, weekly “field updates” were posted to Storyline’s video channel on the Web. Within weeks, 2,000 viewers from around the world found them – a “viral” happening in the obscure world of industrial archaeology.