Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads

  • Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads
  • Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads
  • Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads
  • Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads

Highly skilled potters sculpted animals onto “effigy vessels,” giving a glimpse of creatures that held symbolic importance. Among the several hundred animals documented, most represent birds not typically eaten, which may have been forbidden from harm.


Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads by Ann Cordell

My story is about the four-headed pot from the McKeithen site in North Florida. Dr. Jerry Milanch, who was our curator of Archaeology here at the Florida Museum, had an NSF grant in the late 1970s to excavate the mounds and midden at the site. In the fall of 1977, Jerry conducted a Field School of UF Anthropology students to excavate mounds B and C. I was a grad student and teaching assistant for the Field School.

We spent the last half of the semester excavating Mound C. This was a ceremonial mound that had been extensively looted and the landowner had recovered several broken Weeden Island pots from the site. Our excavation really consisted of systematically sifting the disturbed soil and sand and we recovered some pottery that cross-mended with the pots that the landowner had found. We didn’t have much expectation of finding undisturbed deposits in the mound.

On the one day that Jerry had to be away from the site – and I was in charge – we actually found the four-headed pot. We exposed it carefully and cleared off the sand so we could get a photograph of it in situ. It was almost getting dark by this time but we were able to get a photograph and we didn’t want to leave it in the ground overnight, so we carefully removed it and packed it up and then after the field school was over we brought it back to the lab here at the Museum.

The pot had been broken in situ except for the base, which was knocked out of it before the pot was deposited in the mound, so everything was recovered except for a couple of pieces. We’ve reconstructed the pot in the lab and this pot has become really the icon for Weeden Island pottery in Florida.

Ann Cordell
Collection Manager
Ceramic Technology Laboratory
Florida Museum of Natural History


Ceramic Bowl with Four Heads
Made by the McKeithen Weeden Island People,
From Columbia Co., Florida
Dates to ~AD 550

Exhibit Area

Objects Tell Stories


Precolumbian Florida

Additional Information

The McKeithen Site is a Weeden Island (AD 200-900) site in Columbia county excavated during the late 1970s under the direction of Jerry Milanich. The site is composed of a village area and three mounds. The collections from the site include an excellent variety of Weeden Island ceramics, including numerous whole or almost whole vessels from different areas of the site. The collections also include a variety of stone points and tools, grinding stones, mica, and some faunal and floral remains.

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