Late Archaic Soapstone Quarries
By the Late Archaic period (3000 - 1200 B.C.E.), Virginians had formed regional trade networks along the major rivers. One manifestation of these networks are the soapstone bowls that are found throughout Virginia. Chemical analysis has revealed that the bowls were quarried and shaped at several specific outcrop sites in the central Piedmont. From there they were traded across vast distances to the faraway Coastal Plain, where people did not have access to soapstone naturally.
Soapstone, or steatite, is a soft stone that is easily carved, but it is very heavy, leading many to estimate that the rivers were the primary method of transporting these items. What their exact purpose was, archaeologists can't be sure. Most are plain with no decoration, although this fragment shows an incised zig-zag decoration. Some show black residue from being placed over a fire. This may be evidence that the bowls were used for cooking, although they were relatively scarce compared to the other cooking containers in the Late Archaic (for example, animal skins).