The Revised Sandy Lake Ware Distribution Project is an ongoing study by archaeologist Jill Taylor-Hollings that examines the extent of this pottery in northwestern Ontario. Although expanding upon her MA thesis research (Taylor-Hollings 1999), this study is based upon earlier work by Arthurs (1978) and several northwestern Ontario government archaeologists' projects.
Sandy Lake is a Late Woodland (~AD 1000-1750) pottery ware found across central Canada and the northern USA. Two typical Sandy Lake vessels are shown in Figure 1. Typical Sandy Lake ware attributes include: globular vessel shape, thin and fairly straight walls, grit or shell temper, and interior notched or plain decoration. The surface finish may be textile impressed, smoothed, check or simple stamped and these comprise the types within the ware. Decoration is used to split the types into different variants, such as plain and interior notched.
Figure 1. Mortuary vessel #1 with typical Sandy Lake ware attributes from the Norway Lake site in Minnesota - A) reconstructed pot; B) artist's rendition (modified from Birk 1977:43).
The distribution of Sandy Lake ware has expanded considerably since the original description was published by Cooper and Johnson (1964) (see Figure 2). According to their research, Sandy Lake ware was found only within Minnesota and Wisconsin. Birk (1977) and Arthurs (1978) also added substantially to the known distribution in Minnesota and Ontario respectively. Resulting from discussions at the 1988 Lake Superior Basin Workshop (PLSBW 1987), Grace Rajnovich presented a redefined extent that included northwestern Ontario and a small portion of southeastern Manitoba. It was also determined at this workshop that the makers of Sandy Lake ware were probably 'Siouan', specifically Assiniboine. That inference was based on Sandy Lake ware found at sites identified as being occupied by the Dakota and in association with early Postcontact French fur trade goods.
Later, Taylor-Hollings (1999) identified new examples or confirmed Sandy Lake ware in a number of sites expanding the northwestern distribution to include all of southern Manitoba, part of central Manitoba and in North Dakota (see Figure 3). In addition, syncretic or "Sandy Lake influenced" pottery has been identified as far west as Saskatchewan. This research also resulted in: a more contemporary Sandy Lake ware attribute list, a simplified pottery classification system, a compilation of shell tempered pottery in central Canada (including those that are Sandy Lake ware such as in Figure 4), and the identification of a Sandy Lake ware Stamped type sherd in Canada as the most northern example.
Figure 4. Ten Sandy Lake rim sherds from the Redsky Site in SE Manitoba. Exteriors are on the left and interiors on the right. Number #145 (centre) is shell tempered. Thanks to Gord Hill of the Manitoba Historic Resources Branch for bringing this site to my attention.
The Continuing Study of Sandy Lake Ware
In this ongoing study, pottery from different archaeological sites in northwestern Ontario will be examined to determine if more Sandy Lake ware is present. Also, examples from Arthurs (1978) will be studied to learn more about the attributes of the ware in northwestern Ontario, as opposed to other regions. Recently, one Sandy Lake ware rim sherd was identified by the author in the Pakwash Lake area (near Pakwash Lake Provincial Park) of northwestern Ontario. It is the northern most example thus far (just north of the red outlined area in Figure 2).
1978 Sandy Lake Ware in Northwestern Ontario: A Distributional Study. Archaefacts: Journal of the Archaeological Society of South-western Manitoba 5(2,3):57-64.
1977 The Norway Lake Site: A Multicomponent Woodland Complex Northwestern Minnesota. The Minnesota Archaeologist 36(1):16-45.
Cooper, Leland, and Eldon Johnson
1964 Sandy Lake Ware and Its Distribution. American Antiquity 29(4):474-479.
Participants of the Lake Superior Basin Workshop (PLSBW)
1987 Desperately Seeking Siouans: The Distribution of Sandy Lake Ware. Compiled by Grace Rajnovich from the Lake Superior Basin Workshop in 1988. The Western Canadian Anthropologist 4:57-64 (issued late).
1999 The Northwestern Extent of Sandy Lake Ware: A Canadian Perspective. Unpublished Masters thesis, Dept. of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon.