To browse and learn about specific historic-period ceramic types, or groups of types:

Go to the List of Types page and select the type in which you are interested. This will produce thumbnail images of all examples of that type in our collection. You can also link to the written description and type index specimen for that type from this page.


Go to the Search and Browse page and select the type you want from the dropdown menu for the “Type” field; or select a group of types from the “Category” field. This will produce thumbnail images of all examples of that type or category in our collection.

Searching on the “Type” field will produce thumbnail images of the type index specimen for the type you want to see. Click on this to see the full-size index specimen and a written description of the type, and to link to other examples of that type in our collection.

To freely browse and search the collection and database:

Go to the Search and Browse page. This page allows you to freely search by any single criteria or combination of criteria. Searches will produce thumbnail images of all sherds that fit your search criteria.

About the site contents

Please remember that the searchable database is based exclusively on the specimens in the Florida Museum of Natural History Historical Archaeology Type Collections. As such, it may not encompass the entire range of variation known for some pottery types.

Each piece of pottery found in this site has been classified according to the set of attributes you will find in the dropdown search menus on our search pages.

WE FULLY RECOGNIZE THAT THESE ATTRIBUTES AND THE TERMS CHOSEN TO DESCRIBE THEM ARE ARBITRARY, however they are necessary to provide the consistency that is essential for communication among users of the site. Where appropriate, we provide links to visual glossaries that illustrate our attribute terms.

We welcome input from users. Send comments, corrections and suggestions to

About the attribute fields

Attribute Field Description
Paste Color Color of the interior clay body of the sherd
Surface Finish/Glaze The manner in which the surface has been treated or finished
Decorative Technique The physical technique used to decorate the sherd (NOT the design motif or colors)
Background Color The predominant color of the sherd’s surface, which creates the background for other colors and designs. (see below: Note on Color)
Paste Temper The kind of inclusions (if any) seen in the sherd’s clay body
Design Motif 1
Design Motif 2
The design or design elements used for decoration
Rim Motif The design or design element used specifically around the rim of the vessel from which the sherd came
Design Color 1
Design Color 2
Design Color 3
Design Color 4
Colors used in decorating (usually painting) the sherd (See * below: Note on Color)
Collection The sub-collection of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Historical Archaeology Type Collections to which the sherd belongs (see About the collections)
Location of Recovery Region in which the sherd was excavated
Site Site from which the sherd was excavated
Type Name Name of the type in which the sherd has been classified (See ** below: Note on types)
Alternate Type Name Other widely-used, published names for the same type
Design Distribution The way the design is distributed on a vessel
Vessel Form The form (if any) of the vessel from which the sherd came
Production Origin Where the pottery was manufactured

**Note on Color: Color is particularly troublesome because of the large variation in both individual and cultural perceptions of color. Computer monitor variations add another complicating factor in agreeing on color designations. The color glossaries are therefore particularly important and should be used if there is any question about what a color term (e.g., “buff/tan/cream”, “blue”, “rust/brownish red”, etc.) means in the context of this site. We have intentionally compressed color descriptors into general, widely-inclusive categories to reduce or avoid searches that produce no results, a common problem when using highly specific, and highly subjective color designations.

*Note on “Types”: We have organized this site around the concept of “ceramic type”, as used by archaeologists. (see Introduction to ceramic identification) We have relied on published definitions of ceramic type and have not attempted to define new types. Sherds that do not conform to existing published types are designated as “Unidentified….”. We recognize that there is not always consensus among archaeologists about type definitions and classification schemes. We have tried to indicate this in the “type index specimen” pages, which provide reference to other published
perspectives when appropriate.