Pottery in Archaeology (The Bronze Age)

19 Dec

My previous ” Pottery in Archaeology ” post began with the Neolithic period. In that post I hoped to encourage the beginner who is interested in archaeology and wishes to study ancient pottery. Pottery helps the archaeologist to build up a picture of how our ancestors lived many years ago, such as the residue still evident inside a cooking pot, this can tell us what the last meal had been. I will now move on to the next phase and talk about the pottery in:-


This period can be sub-divided into an earlier phase (2300 to 1200 BC) and a later one (1200-700) Beaker pottery appears in England around (2475-2315 BC) along with burial practices of inhumation. Early Bronze Age people buried their dead beneath earth mounds known as barrows often with a beaker pot alongside the body.

Later in the period, cremation was adopted as a burial practice with cemeteries of urns containing cremated individuals appearing in the archaeological record. People of this period were also mostly responsible for the building of many well known prehistoric sites such as the later phases of Stonehenge.

The Bronze Age people lived in round houses and divided up the landscape.Evidence of stone rows can be seen,for example, Dartmoor. It is believed that “Beaker People” were a race of people who migrated to Britain en masse from the continent,however this is still debatable.


EARLY STYLE  BEAKERS  so called after the beaker people reached Britain as fine well made vessels with “S” shaped profiles and in a red fabric (the prepared clay with which the vessel was made)  Two basic forms of early beakers found in Britain can be recognised by their decoration and the fact that the belly of the pot is quite low down, the decoration consisting of circling lines of twisted cord and tooth combed impressions.

Early to Middle B.A. Beakers. Early Bronze Age decorated Beakers

Early Bronze age beaker and food vessel.Early Bronze Age Beaker and food vessel

Bronze Age Beaker found in Wales in a Grave burial Bronze Age Beaker found in a Grave Burial in Wales.

MIDDLE STYLE  BEAKERS  are more decorative though the technique is still much the same as the early style. For example, the decorated zones become much broader, the shape of the vessel also alters with more emphesis placed on the difference between the neck and the belly of the pot. The belly of the pot becomes slightly higher up the body and the neck of the pot itself eccentuated. Also in the middle period the fingernail decorated beakers begin. These fingernail decorated pots can be either fine or course and are most commonly found in domestic assemblages

LATE  STYLE  BEAKERS.   The neck of the late style beakers is now eccentuated as well as elongated and the body more bulbous. Ribbed and cordoned decoration as well as combed or incision. Fingernail decoration increases in frequency and size.

Below is a guideline of shapes and decoration for Bronze Age Beakers.

Figs 1-2  Early  Style Beakers         Figs 3-4 Early-Middle Style

Figs 5-6  Middle Style Beakers         Figs 7-9  Late Style Beakers 

Fig 10     Late Style Handled Beaker

Fig 11     Finger Rusticated  Decoration

Bronze Age Pottery Sequence


A variety of regional forms have been identified. Overall there are two main divisions between bowl and vase form, the latter preferred in the south of Britain and the former in the North and the West country. Decoration in the North frequently covers the whole of the pot whereas in the South the decoration is confined to the upper part of the vessel. 

Of the vase food vessels,the simplest form is a bipartite vase with moulded rim.The decoration may cover the whole vessel or may be restricted to the upper half including the rim and the rim bevel.

Food Vessel Bronze  AgeBronze Age Food Vessel.

Middle Bronze Age Bowl             Middle Bronze Age Bowl. 


Collared urns retain there Peterborough derived decoration in the form of incision,whipped and plaited cord, stabs and comb impressions,the latter most likely derived from beakers. Herringbone motifs are popular as are triangles,encircling line and lattice motifs. Crescents of twisted cord impressions decorate the shoulder of the pot. 

Bronze age collared urn from Carneddau Cairn NR Carno Wales. These Bronze Age collared urns were used for burial practice.


Below is a small guideline of shapes and decoration of the Collared Urns.

Figure l –  Etal Moor Northumberland     Figure 2 – Stonebridge Northumberland

Figure 3 – Brighton East Sussex.          Figure 4 -Cliviger Lancashire

Figures 5 and 6  Etel Moor Northumberland

Collared Urns

The Bronze Age Collared urns vary from region to region as do most of the historical pottery found on archaeological sites. If there is an’ Historical Society’ in your region thats a good place to begin if you wish to further this interest. Also libraries are another source.

1 Comment

Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Archaeology and Pottery


One response to “Pottery in Archaeology (The Bronze Age)

  1. nutsfortreasure

    December 22, 2012 at 4:18 am

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    I have a STAR for you over here 🙂




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