Pottery Disk

Pottery disks from Garvin County

Pottery Disks

Perforated pottery disks are a rather common artifact in Oklahoma. These are often termed "spindle whorls" because of their similarity to wheel-shaped clay or stone weights used on spindles in Mexico and elsewhere. While some of these may have been used as weights on spindles for spinning threads or cordage, many of them are not suitable for this purpose and must have served some other function.

The disks are made from a broken piece of pottery. The sherd is roughed out to form a disk and then the edges are rubbed smooth on a stone or abrasive material. The smoothed disk is then drilled and perforated through the center to produce a flat washer-type bead or artifact. While many specimens have a central perforation that is well centered, many examples have the hole offside or askew so that the disk would be unbalanced for service as a flywheel on the spindle. In addition, the disks often have two or more perforations, sometimes as many as ten or more. There is also considerable variation in the diameter of the perforation as well as in the diameter of the disk. Several Oklahoma examples are shown in Figure 46.


Some of the multiperforated specimens may have served as strainers. There are known examples of pottery water bottles from Arkansas in which similar perforated sherd disks with several perforations have been incorporated into the bottles at the juncture of the bottleneck with the globular portion of the bottle; obviously these disks serve as a strainer or protective device for the contents. The presence of strainers in bottles, however, is very rare and there are hundreds of bottles which do not have this device present. In addition, many of the perforated disks, especially those with multiple holes, are to be found on sites where the bottle form was not used. Some specimens from McCurtain County, Oklahoma, have an unusually large central perforation and may have functioned as a jar cover.

It is likely that the perforated pottery disks may have served various purposes with different cultural groups or even within the same population. They are characteristic of the Washita River focus in central Oklahoma, and some other ceramic assemblages within the state.


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