huts at Town Creek Indian Mound

Figure 2. Native American clay objects have been excavated from Town Creek Indian Mound, shown here. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

The first human inhabitants of the Piedmont to make use of its clays were the American Indians. People who lived along the banks of the Potomac and Savannah Rivers discovered the seemingly miraculous transformation of mud into stone by heat about 4500 years ago. This startling transformation appears to have been viewed as magical by these early peoples, and soon the making of clay pots was controlled by rituals, tradition, and taboos. In North Carolina, the first detailed knowledge of clay use in the Piedmont has been derived from excavations of the Town Creek Indian Mound shown in Figure 2.