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Native Americans
Native American Pottery

Native American Pottery
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   7.04

     challenging words:    clay-lined, heated, nomadic, orange-brown, pinon, play-dough, present-day, essence, geometric, coils, archaeologists, southwestern, serving, indented, pounded, culture
     content words:    Native American, Native Americans, North America, Pueblo Indians, New Mexico, Maria Martinez, Navajo Indians

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Native American Pottery
By Colleen Messina

1     Before Tupperware, where did leftovers go? Every culture had its own way of solving this problem. Native American tribes created stunning clay pots for many purposes. They may not have had lids that sealed tight, but Native American pottery looked much more elegant than plastic containers. They used them to save seeds, carry water, and serve food.
2     Indians made pots in all shapes and sizes. They used deep bowls as pots for cooking over open fires. They made shallower bowls for serving food. They even designed special pots with indented bases so they could be used to carry water on a person's head. You might not think that carrying water on your head sounds like fun, but Native Americans had no choice because they did not have running water in their tepees. Having a pot that fit on your head prevented headaches. It was like having a good backpack for carrying your books!
3     Even though all tribes used pots, the Indian tribes that did a lot of farming developed pottery more than the Indians who hunted and gathered their food. Tribes in the Southwest made the most famous pottery, partly because they did not move around a lot. Some tribes, like the Sioux and the Cheyenne, stopped farming and became more nomadic after the Europeans brought horses to North America. They seemed to enjoy hunting buffalo more than creating pots.
4     People called archaeologists enjoy studying ancient pots from all parts of North America. They have some interesting ideas about how people began making pottery. Perhaps an Indian lady put some clay in the bottom of her basket. Then, the clay-lined basket might have fallen into a fire. When it was pulled out, a hard clay bowl remained because the basket burned to a crisp. Many old pots look as though they have textures like baskets.
5     Native Americans worked hard to make their pots. First, they dug up the clay and pounded it to remove any lumps. The potters, who were always women, spent a lot of time collecting raw clay and then mixed in just the right amount of sand, crushed seashells, and parts of plants. After that, the women mixed the clay powder with the right amount of water to make it like modern play dough.

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