Category Archives: Archaeology and Pottery

Another Look at Delft Ware Pottery

One of my previous posts about pottery was that of the  ( Post Medieval period ) in which  I spoke of the beautiful Delft Wares. The Delft potters are one of my favorites so I thought that those of you also interested in pottery in Archaeology would enjoy further reading on this subject.


Delftware began during the reign of Henry Vlll. a derivative of Italian Maijolica. Delftware is a type of earthenware characterized by its opaque white enamel glaze , made from a mixture of tin and lead ash, powdered glass and water.

Before the development of this revolutionary enamel, British potters had been severely restricted in terms of decoration by the drab browns and greens of the clays they were forced to use. The clean white finish of the Delftware allowed the potters to paint patterns, landscapes and even portraits. They painted their designs in bright colors derived from various minerals- cobalt blue was the most popular, although copper green, manganese purple, iron red and antimony yellow were also used.

The first London Delftware dates from around l550, and includes plates, vases and drug jars in various colors . Much of the English Delftware tended to imitate Chinese, while London potters began to develop their own distinctive style during the l7th century. Straight- sided posset pots( from which hot, milky  alcoholic beverages were drunk and barrel- shaped  mugs were among the new forms that emerged at this time.

Blue and White Delft Posset Pot c l700

Blue and white Delft Posset Pot c l700

English Delftware Polychrome Posset pot c l670-l690

English Delftware Polychrome Posset Pot c 17th century

My favorite at this time, those beautiful ” Blue dash chargers” characterized by a series of blue marks around the rim, were made in various sizes and designs, including depictions of Adam and Eve, pictures of tulips and portraits of statesmen- images of Charles the second are particularly prevalent

Delft blue dash charger Royal portrait poss William lll

Royal Portrait Blue Dash Charger Possibly English c l690. Probably William lll on a rearing horse.

The l8th century craze for tea inspired the creation of a plethora of tea bowls, pots, caddies cups and saucers all made in Delftware. As the public appetite for Delftware grew, yet more forms were introduced by potters, including flower bricks and puzzle jugs. These latter were often painted with witty inscriptions challenging the reader to drink without spilling.

London Delft Chinoiserie Flower Brick c 1760

London Delft Chinoiserie Flower Brick c l760

Delftware Flower Brick

Delft Blue and White Flower Brick early l8th century

The Delftware potters always had one eye on the Orient for their inspiration. The technique of decorating in white on a pale blue background was almost certainly the result of endeavors to replicate a similar style of ornament found on Chinese pots, just as the tin glaze used on Delftware was born, at least in part, from a desire to mimic fashionable Chinese porcelain.

English Delft Puzzle Jug poss Liverpool c 1740

Delft Puzzle Jug possibly Liverpool c l740.

It is interesting how the puzzle is solved. The jug’s handle and rim were made hollow, something like straws . The handle opens to the inside of the jug near the bottom, then goes up the side a little, bows out, and then connects to the opening inside the rim. To successfully drink without spilling, the drinker has to suck from the correct spout. Some puzzle jugs had additional holes which had to be covered with a finger before the ale could be drawn, or hidden holes to make the drinking even more challenging.


Posted by on February 14, 2014 in Archaeology and Pottery


The Native American Indian Pottery


I think that those of you reading my posts must know that my main interest lies in Ancient pottery. I have blogged about Pottery from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages, the Roman through to the Medieval and Post Medieval periods.This post is about pottery made and decorated by The North American Indians.Their pottery is well known for its artistic beauty. But first here is a brief history of their way of life.


These are people who relied mostly on the flesh of various sorts of animals as the mainstay  of their diet .From the animals they also obtained other necessities for their existence such as, skins for clothing and shelter. Sometimes the diet was supplemented by a certain amount of gathering of roots, berries and other commodities.The Blackfeet who hunted buffalo upon the plains for example, hunted moose upon the Canadian Shield.


These people lived primarily in coastal regions where the stores of fish and other seafood could be had,thus satisfying dietary requirements for the people of this area.


These people were Nomads who wandered about in search of edible flora and fauna in order to stay alive. The Paiute tribe of the Great Basin area are classic examples of the people.


Indian people were extremely successful farmers who provided for most of their needs by tilling the soil. The Native Americans lived in particular environments adapting to his surroundings with a keen sensitivity. It is thought that the North American Indian was the first and most natural ecologist we have known. From his living by nature he was careful not to destroy the natural basis of life within an area. From the Indians arts and crafts we can see that he possessed an ability to adapt and use the natural resources from any given region.The major categories  of artistic production point to the importance of natural materials and their availability.


The Native American Indian made their pottery from natural clays in various regions. They learned how to make  containers of durability and beauty. Normally pottery was made by people who lived in a relatively settled way of life since pottery does not survive well under nomadic conditions. Pottery was produced primarily in the American Southwest, the Southeast and woodland area, some was even manufactured in earlier times by farming tribes on the Plains. It was decorated in a bewildering variety of ways. The North American Indians never had the potters wheel so all pottery was made by either the coiling or modeling and paddling method. Variations in design were largely tribal and these designs can be quite complicated but beautiful.

Pueblo Indian


Food preparation and serving is an essential part of all Pueblo ceremonies, important ceremonies were usually attended with feasting. Special foods maybe associated with particular ceremonies that require planning and preparation to insure that the ingredients are at hand. The cooking may take place for several days even weeks.

Depending on the scale of the ceremony, large groups may be recruited to prepare food, including the tasks of grinding and cooking to make sure that enough food is available. Ceramics would be used as containers for the preparation of feast foods, as a means of transporting foods to other places where they are consumed, and as service to participants and audience.


Early Virginia Indians hunted, fished and collected wild grains and berries, which they prepared in different ways. Meats were roasted, while grains and  tubers were pounded into ashcakes and then baked. For many millennia, boiling water was difficult, but by the late Woodland Period (AD900-l600) technology had improved among the Powhatan  Indians of Virginia so much so that a large ceramic stew pot became the focus of family eating. Roasted meats, shellfish, and wild berries were all added to the stew, which boiled throughout the day.

Pueblo Cooking pot. Pueblo Cooking pot. AD l350-l400

Colington Cooking pot tempered with shell.

Algonquian tribe Eastern Woodland cooking pot

An  Algonquian Tribal Village Scene.

An Algonquian Tribal Village

Rather than prepare set meals, family members who spent the day gathering food or doing chores added to the stew as able and eat from it as necessary. Wild grain and, later,  domesticated corn were harvested and baked into bread. The Powhatan’s  generally avoided seasoning also salt, they most likely enjoyed food for its texture rather than its flavor. Although the Indians domesticated beans and squash, they ate more corn(maize) than any other crop, sucking unripe ears for their sweet juice, baking cornbread, or roasting it. What is known about Indian cooking in this period is based on research from  Paleobotanists and  Paliazoologists about what  wild foods were available, as well as eye witness accounts from English colonists.

During the Early Woodland period  (l200-500 BC ) pottery making was introduced from the south, and the boiling food- especially meat and dumplings made from wild grains-became common. In fact, during the Late Woodland period, a large ceramic stewpot was kept on the boil for much of the day.

The Virginia Indians mostly cooked on open-air fires usually located outdoors and in pots with conical- shaped bases propped upright with stones in order to control the heat, they added firewood  to or subtracted it from between the stones. Because the heat source was all around the pots instead of just below them, liquids came to the boil about thirty percent faster than on modern stove tops.

Indian cooks either roasted their meat and fish or cut it up- head entrails, and all- and added it to the stewpot. On special occasions, particularly tough venison was roasted and then boiled before being served. Broth from meat stews was drunk with the meals, along with spring water. Deer suet was caught or strained off during cooking to be used as a spread for bread or for drying in cakes, which were then used in trade. Oysters were either boiled or roasted, using the heat to pop open the shells; sometimes the Indians dried the oysters for trade.

Elite households, prompted by the obligation to feed guests even during the lean times, preserved meats by smoking, a process the English colonists called  ” barbecuting ”   Indian cooks dried and later ground sweet nuts, removed their shells and stirred in water to make a nut milk which was considered a delicacy. There is a story whereby the Powhatens – captured Elizabeth Hanson with her children. The march back to her captors’ village was so long and grueling that her milk dried up. When she arrived, the Indian women saw her emaciated baby, near death, and restored it to health by providing nut-milk cooked with some cornmeal in it. Virginia Indians may  have used it similarly.

Source:- MLA Citation  Rountree ,H.C.  “Cooking in Early Virginia Indian Society”.

Encyclopedia Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.


Coiled Ancient Pueblo

But firstly here is a prehistoric pueblo jar.

Anasazi Black on White pitcher geometric design.

Anasazi Pitcher Black on White Geometric design

Acoma Pueblo Flask

Acoma Pueblo  Flask.

Cherokee stamping paddles,used to imprint designs in pottery

Cherokee stamping paddles used to imprint designs on pottery

Fine Pueblo pot with birds

Beautiful Pueblo Pot with Birds.

Hopi Pueblo Hopi Pueblo Dish

Chaco Anasazi Canteen Chaco Anasazi Canteen

Acoma Pueblo Bowl

Acoma Pueblo Bowl.

Hopi unmarried woman butterfly hairstyle

This unmarried Hopi girl with the distinct butterfly hairstyle would receive

a wedding vase. Picture below.

Hopi wedding vase. Hopi wedding vase.

Ancient Hopi woman making pottery

Ancient Hopi woman making pottery.

Pueblo Indian Woman decorating Pottery

Pueblo woman decorating pottery.


Posted by on July 20, 2013 in Archaeology and Pottery


Pottery in Archaeology ( Roman )


This post is intended for the beginner interested in Roman pottery as an outline to pottery forms and fabrics most widely distributed in Roman Britain.

Pottery is undoubtedly the most common archaeological material surviving on Roman sites. In most cases organic material will decay and metals corode which is why archaeologists frequently use fragments of pottery as an aid to help them date their sites. The study of pottery is important as a chronological indicator when other dateable objects such as coins are lacking,it can also provide information about trade communications.

When the roman army invaded Britain in 43 A.D. they found a number of potting traditions already established.On the one hand,the inhabitants particularly,Kent,Essex and Hertfordshire,who had close links with the continent, were importing wheel thrown pottery and distributing it on a large scale,on the other hand, pottery was handmade mostly on a small scale and, with a few exceptions,usually sold localy.

At first the Romans brought some of their own pottery with them in order to encourage native potters to supply them,evidence also suggests that some Gallic potters came over to Britain to take advantage of the situation. Merchants would have arrived ready to locate suitable potteries with the hope of obtaining contracts to supply the Roman army. In some instances however the actual legions or auxileries seem to have undertaken or directly supervised the production of pottery in Britain. For example at Longthorpe (Peterborough), Brampton ( Cumbria ), Holt ( Clwyd ) and Grimscar ( Huddersfield ).


SAMIAN WARE  is one of the most common, and easy to recognise pottery to be imported into Britain. It  was manufactured in South Gaul France. Samian wares flooded into Britain after 43 A.D. A distinct,glossy red-coated mass-produced table ware,often relief decorated. The fabric is red throughout the thickness of the vessel, with an external slip or glaze.

Other imitations of Samian Wares are generally only red because of an external slip or glaze,their interior will be a different colour when seen in cross- section.The Oxfordshire and The New Forest potters are two such factories producing imitation samian wares. True Samian is red all the way through. Cups,bowls,platters, jars even inkwells were produced.  Both plain and decorated vessels often bear the name-stamp of the potters or workshops which help archaeologists to closely date the objects found.

Part of a Decorated Samian ware Bowl with stamp inside. Part  of a decorated high quality Samian Ware bowl

from Dragendorff 29, Stamp SVllRlV inside the base,the mark of the potter S VERIUS Made in Gaul (modern day France) and exported throughout the Empire. Courtesy The Museum of London.

Samian ware ink pot. Samian ware Ink pot.

282px-Central_Gaulish_samian_Dr_30 Vase A central Gaulish Samian vase with the name of the potter DIVIXTUS in the decoration. A.D. 150-190.  Courtesy The British Museum. (Source Wikipedia).

Samian Ware Bowl from Wroxeter Shropshire. Samian ware bowl found at Wroxeter Shropshire.

samian-cup Samian Cup 1-2nd Century A.D.

Samian ware pottery sherd Samian Ware Pottery Sherd  1st-2nd century A.D.

Although Samian ware (terra sigillata) is easy to recognise it is a vast subject for the beginner. Obviously it would take up far to much space on this blog. However, anyone studying Roman pottery should be able to aquire sufficient knowledge for basic fabric and form identification and dating fairly easy. Below are a few illustrations of forms for you to study.

PlAIN SAMIAN WARE FORMS.(commonly found in Britain)

Roman Samian Wares Plain

Nos 15/17  and 15/17r    A dish with internal quarter-round moulding at the junction of the base and wall.There are two main types (a) with an almost upright wall,relatively shallow and (b) the form being a little deeper with rouletted circle both varieties are found throughout the 1st century.

Nos 35-36     Cup and dish with curved rim ornamented with leaves  Late 2nd century.

No    38 Hemispherical flanged bowl,may have beaded lip or plain one. 2nd-3rd century

No    44 Similar to  38 but with a cordon in place of the flange              2nd-3rd century

No    45 Mortarium with lion head with small white grits               Early 2nd century.

No    22 Small dish without footring                                                    1st century

No.   42 Segmented dish usualy with a pair of strap handles        Early  2nd century

No.   81 Wide mouth jar with everted rim. This was made at Lezoux under Hadrian.

No    15 Dish – 46   Cup                                                                      1st century

No.    11  Hemispherical bowl with decorated flange.

Ludvic TG and TX  Dish and Cup.

DECORATED SAMIAN WARE FORMS (commonly found in Britain)

Samian Decorated

No.29        Carinated bowl

No 30        Cylindrical bowl which lasted throughout the  1st – 2nd century

No 37        Hemispherical bowl with plain band below the beaded lip.The rest of the ornamentation can be varied  but the main styles are (a) zonal, usually late 1st -early  2nd century and (b) continuous scroll ornament down the whole depth of the bowl,common in the late 1st century and the Antonine period.

No 67        Small jar                                                                                        Early 2nd century

No 68        Jar with upright concave rim and central band of rouletting  before       Middle  2nd century

No.78        Straight sided cup


The popularity of Roman Samian Ware was such that in late lst to early 2nd century several factories in Southern England ( For example West Stowe, Suffolk) began to produce grey or black imitations of some Samian bowl forms,in fabrics like the Terra Nigra tradition with a polished surface and decorated with rouletting,impressed stamps,vertical incised lines and circles.


I will follow with one or two of the most popular named pottery wares of the Roman period which can be researched further if you so wish.

NENE VALLEY WARE (Colour Coated)

A pale fabric with dark colour-coat barbotine decorated or painted and widely distributed across Britain 2nd to 4th century A.D..   Jugs,flagons and bottles were produced, beakers with hunting scenes called (hunt cups) Nene Valley Hunt Cup                        Nene Valley Ware Cup

Nene Valley Ware Hunt Cup                                   Nene Valley Ware Cup.


A range of orange or red-brown wares produced along the middle Severn Valley and distributed across western and northern Britain from the 2nd to 4th century A.D. Storage jars were produced,bead rim jars bowls, and wide mouthed jars,tankards,flanged bowls,dishes and platters Surfaces were sometimes decorated with lenear or lattice zones. Manufactured at centres such as Shipton Mallet(Somerset) Perry Barr (Birmingham) and Gloucester area where it is called Glevam ware.Also a large factory nr Malvern (Worcestershire.) A small amount was supplied to turrets and milecastles on a sector of Hadrians wall from 2nd – 4th century A.D. and to garrisons in Scotland in the mid 2nd to early 3rd century A.D.

Severn Valley Ware Tankard            Severn Valley Rim SherdRim Sherd

A Severn Valley Ware Tankard from Sutton Walls

courtesy of Hereford Museum Heritage services

Severn valley wares with lattice decoration

Lattice decorated Severn Valley Wares

Severn Valley Beaker

Severn Valley Beaker

.                                   Some Severn Valley Wares .Severn Valley Wares

A00949_m Roman face pot

Pots were also made for burial like this face pot

Below is a short list of other potteries in Britain during the Roman period.


The well known fine colour- coated ,often hard table wares were clearly the most important products from the late 3rd to late 4th century. Distributed over much of England south of the Thames. Fabrics varied from buff to grey and the colour coats from matt red to lustrous purple. Vessels produced were beakers small bowls, and flagons were popular.


Grey-brown bowls and jars with heavy burnishing in bands from kilns at Swanpool Lincoln They formed a major production of pottery of the north-east Midlands in late 3rd-4th century


Two classes of the fabric are recognised: one, BBl with its origins among the Iron Age is black and gritty and was handmade and burnished in facets, the other BB2,is greyish,finer and wheelthrown,with a more silky surface.Its manufacture began soon after mid lst century in south-eastern England particularly Colchester and north-west Kent.and copying the BB1 whose products had found their main markets in Dorset .Vessels produced were cooking-pots, squatt shaped with short necks and upward flaring rims burnishing usually occurs just inside the rim and on the exterior,except for a broad central band of incised acute-angled lattice decorationBB l

Black Burnished Wares consisting of bowls,jars,cook pots.

BB1 decorated

Illustration of decorated Black Burnished Ware.


A range of colour- coated indented or bag-shaped beakers with moulded (cornice) rims and the body surface was sprinkled with small particles of dried clay. This was imported pottery from the Rhineland and copied from the mid 2nd century to early 3rd century A.D. at Colchester,Wildersdpool(Cheshire), Great Casterton( Leics)

.Rough cast ware Rough Cast Ware.

Pottery in Roman Britain is a vast subject. The information here should help the beginner sufficiently enough to encourage the study of Roman pottery further.There are several books to be obtained which can be bought on Amazon and other outlets.(  Pottery In Britain 4000BC to AD1900 A Guide to Identifying Pot sherds) is one such book. also  ( Pottery in Roman Britain by the Author Guy De La Bedoyere) can be obtained from  Shire Old House books.


Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Archaeology and Pottery


Pottery in Archaeology (Iron Age)

My previous two posts about ” Pottery in Archaeology ” covered the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age period In this post I will talk about the Iron Age Pottery found on various archaeologcal sites in Britain.

Please remember as previously stated that these posts are intended for the beginner interested in archaeology and wishing to study ancient pottery.


Archaeologists have found pottery sherds at almost all regions of Iron Age settlements around Britain and at this time pots were handmade from local clay and fired in bonfire kilns,or a shallow pit. The clay would have been mixed with ‘temper’ such as quartz sand, pellets, crushed burnt flint or fired clay (grog),even organic material like grasses. This helped to reduce shrinking and cracking of the pots when drying. The colour of the pot could be controlled by varying the amount of oxygen in the firing.People made different types of pots or decorated them in their own particular style in different parts of England so would not have been found on the same Iron Age settlement.

Iron Age people were not too particular about washing their vessels, which is why burnt remains of foods are found on the inside and sometimes the outside of the pot. The food was poured into a serving bowl for eating. Cooking pots were not usually decorated nor polished,whereas serving bowls could sometimes be decorated and were then polished by burnishing,this would be done by rubbing to achieve a glossy surface.The vessels produced during the Iron age consisted of ,jars ,bowls, beakers, cups and of course my favourite, the cooking pots.


Iron Age people were farmers who lived in round houses within an enclosure Wheat, barley and beans were harvested in small fields and people reared animals such as cattle,sheep and pigs.They collected wood for fuel and building houses,they preserved their meat with salt. Most Iron age people lived on farms or in small villages,occasionally they lived in larger settlements,such as hillforts.

Iron Age Village at Chysauster in Cornwall. Courtesy English Heritage.  Courtesy English Heritage

This Iron Age village at Chysauster in Cornwall illustrates a typical pre- Roman farmstead.

Iron age roundhouse from Glastonbury

Iron Age Round House Glastonbury.

The most characteristic Iron Age feature in many parts of Europe are the Hillforts. Herefordshire has around forty hillforts which range in size from the Credenhill at forty nine acres down to small earthworks of just an acre or two. The hillforts in Shropshire vary in size from Badbury Ring which encloses just 2.5 acres and the massive Titterstone Clee hillfort which covers 71 acres and is one of the largest in Britain. These hillforts so named because they were built on the top of hills to take defensive advantage of the landscape.There are thought to be more than fifty Iron Age hillforts in Shropshire.

Old Oswestry Iron Age Hillfort.

Old Oswestry Hillfort in Shropshire.

A SHORT GUIDE TO IRON AGE POTTERY ( Three Phases) Early,Middle and Late.

Early Iron age examplesCooking pots from Orkney I.A.

Early Iron Age cooking pots.

Early Iron age Pot with beaded rim Early Iron Age pot beaded rim. Jar Iron Age found at Burrough Hill Hillfort Iron Age Jar.

Late bronze age-Early Iron Age Urn Early Iron age Urn.    Iron Age Cup Iron age Cup

Two pottery sherds possibly Malvernian Ware

Two Middle Iron Age Sherds from Worcestershire possibly Malvernian Ware.

lron Age pot from Bredon Hill Fort Iron Age pot from Bredon Hillfort.

BLACK BURNISHED WARES. Were manufactured around Poole harbour by the (Durotriges) They first found their market in Dorset where they were contracted to supply the Roman Military on Hadrians Wall. During the mid 3rd century A.D. Black Burnished wares were abundent elsewere except for East Anglia and the North East. The Mid 4th Century contracts went to the South Midlands,South Wales and South West England

BB lA selection of Black Burnished Wares.



Below are drawings of Black Burnished wares Courtesy Hereford & Worcester Archaeology.

Drgs of Iron Age Pots

( 1) Saucepan Pot decorated with linear tooling

(2) Saucepan-no decoration

(3)  Tubby cooking pot decorated with acute lattice design

(4) Tubby cooking pot decorated with vertical and horizontal burnishing

(5) Tubby cooking pot with horizontal burnishing

(6) Tubby cooking pot with vertical and horizontal burnishing.

(7) Tubby cooking pot.

(8) Tubby cooking pot with vertical burnishing

(9) Tubby cooking pot with vertical burnishing

(10) Cook pot with sinuous profile.



BB1 decorated Decorated Black Burnished Wares consisting of a selection of storage jars bowls and dishes.



Iron Age Beaker Iron Age Beaker

Iron age bowl from Beckford.Iron Age bowl from Beckford

Later Iron Age decorated vesselsLater decorated wares

In this post I have included as many Iron age pottery vessel shapes as possible, which should enable the beginner to carry on his/her interest.

.A good start is to join an Archaeological or History group who usually carry out  field walking excersizes looking for broken pottery sherds.If you are lucky enough as I was some time ago to find a rim sherd  which led to my interest in ancient pottery, you can follow up your own research and discover whether the sherd belonged to a cooking pot, storage jar or bowl.  Good luck.

Look out for my next post on Pottery in Archaeology.


Posted by on January 12, 2013 in Archaeology and Pottery


Pottery in Archaeology (The Bronze Age)

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.

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Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Archaeology and Pottery


Pottery in Archaeology

In a previous post of mine I promised to talk about my favourite subject, that of archaeology and ancient pottery found on some historical sites. It is intended for the beginner who is interested in learning about the subject of pottery in archaeology.


Looking back to my childhood days I remember my mother always telling me to hold my head up or I would look like a bent up old lady before I was much older. I think this must have been the first indication of my becoming an archaeologist because I was always looking down on the ground searching for anything I could find. On the days we visited my Grandma’s I was anxious to go out to the back of her house as there was a huge open area where I spent happy hours searching for anything I could find, bits of pot or tile that I thought looked interesting, there was the occasional glass marbles and old glass bottles which had a marble in the top,does anyone remember these bottles were called “Cadswallup” bottles? I did once find a watch, and a nice brooch in the shape of a butterfly.

Some of the things I found I kept hidden in a box and put them in my small wardrobe,they were my little treasures until my mother found them and threw them all away saying that they were rubbish. But now, that so called rubbish may have been of archaeological or antique interest. When out walking I still keep my now trained eye open for anything which seems of interest such as, unusually shaped stone or flint objects that maybe tools of the past.

After being married and my children were at school I decided that I wanted to go on an archaeological excavation. I contacted the Hereford and Worcs Sites and Monuments Archaeology Dept and was finaly allowed to go as a volunteer to the site where a dig was about to begin at The Droitwich Saltworks. in Worcestershire.I have already written a previous post about this called  “Evidence of the Past ” It was here that my interest in pottery began.So I will now proceed to explain a bit more about the identification first of pottery from the Neolithic period and will continue through to the Medieval period in future posts.

It is the durability of pottery which makes it so important to archaeologists.Pottery was made in Britain from the time of the first farmers in the early fourth millenium bc and was used for religious and domestic purposes. The earliest pots seem to be the simplest and undecorated pots, cups and bowls originally labelled “Windmill Hill Ware”  see Piggott 193l but have subsequently been divided into regional forms.


Pottery,or ceramic,consists of clay that has been chemically changed and hardened using heat to drive out the water present in the molecules. If the clay has been properly fired,it will hold water and will not soften. If however imperfectly fired the clay will revert back to its liquid state on contact with water or anything wet. Clay sources of varying quility are found commonly in Britain and whereas a course clay may need to be fined before use a very fine clay may need to have course material added. These are non clay bodies found in the fabric of the pottery and are either naturally occuring or added.

The former group may be small sand grains,quartz or organic remains,for example,which occur naturally in the clay itself and are derived from the local geology or ecology. The latter have been deliberatly added to the clay to reduce the plasticity and to open the fabric so that during the firing process water can easily escape and will not blow out rapidly and cause the pot to explode. Almost any material is suitable for this and small pieces of crushed pottery(grog) sand, grass crushed flint and shell are all commonly found  in prehistoric pottery

Once the clay has been prepared and the pot fashioned usually from a series of coils as the potters wheel was unknown in Britain at this time,the vessels could be burnished or decorated in a variety of ways. Impressed techniques, where a material such as string or bone was pushed into the damp clay are very common in the neolithic and bronze age, as are incised decoration and applied or raised cordons and lugs. Once the pot had dried it is then ready for firing Like the potters wheel, kilns are unknown in the British neolithic and bronze age so the pottery would have been fired in a bonfire.


The earliest dated pottery in Britain is Grimston-Lyles Hill ware and it is also one of the longest lasting styles. Carbon dates suggest that this style began around 3500 bc and may have remained in use for well over a millenium. The tradition is also distributed widely over Great Britain from Caithness to East Anglia. The pottery is almost invariably undecorated except for vessels with slight fluting,and the majority of the vessels are either carinated or  ‘S’  profiled.  Grimston Ware is usually good,fine and frequently burnished but occasionally inclusions will either have burnt or dissolved out of the surfaces to give a corky texture.

Vessels produced were round- based bowls ,simple hemispherical cups .Rim forms are rarely elaborate and are usually either thickened, simple or rolled.  Applied lugs may be found on the carinations of bowls or the exteriors of cups but they are rare.

Regional variations are found  in a series as geographically widespread as Grimston ware. There are for example, three sub-titles in Yorkshire Grimston ware itself, Heslerton ware, and Towthorpe. 

Neolithic Potteryclick to enlarge picture.

 Grimston ware 1-2, Thirlings Northumberland after Hurrel 3,

Hanging Grimston North Yorkshire,after Piggott 4 , Heslerton Ware North Yorkshire after Piggott 

Towthorpe Bowl Humberside after Piggott. 5

There is a slight difference between Heslerton and Grimston ware in that the ‘ S ‘ profile is slacker with no sharpe carination and with a more open appearence.


Round based bowls in the South West of England can also be divided into local styles. The best known style is probably the Hembury style which dates from about 3300 bc to around the middle of the 3rd millenium and possibly made in Cornwall by proffesional potters and traded in large quantities as far as Wessex and beyond. Course wares of this style are usually locally made imitations of the finer vessels.

Hembury ware from Carn Brae,Cornwall (After Mercer) also characterized by horizontally perforated lugs often have expanded ends which are known as ‘trumpet lugs’  The rim forms are often simple or slightly rolled. The vessel forms are either simple open bowls,or more rarely, carinated bowls and have an upright neck.

The Windmill Hill pottery so named after the neolithic causeway enclosure in Wiltshire England, dates from the early to the middle of the 3rd millennium and is characterized by its baggy profiles, with simple rounded rims which are occasionally thickened and small oval or circular applied lugs can be found on the exterior of the vessel.Decoration is rarely found on Windmill Hill ware.However if found it is simple and consists of small dots or short incisions which are usualy below the rim either internally or externally.

Windmill Hillclick to enlarge picture

Windmill Hill Pottery baggy profiles 2 and 3 with simple rounded rims.


There are several named decorated wares such as the Whitehawk style from the causewayed enclosure East Sussex,The Abingdon style from the causewayed enclosure on the Thames gravels and The Milldenhall style after a settlement site in the fens of East Anglia

Decorated potteryAbingdon and Mildenhall Pottery

1 and 2 Abingdon style pottery.

3 and 5 Mildenhall style pottery.

 Abingdon style characterized by bipartite bowls and sometimes having applied lugs and handles.Rims are thickened and often rolled also decorated with oblique incisions or twisted cord impressions. Deep pots and simple bowls are also present.

The Mildenhall style is a little more elaborately decorated ‘ S ‘ profiled bowls predominate the style,the pots often deep with rolled and thickened rims. Rims,necks,shoulders and bodies may have decoration with oblique incisions or impressions sometimes extending to the body of the pot.

Decorated pot 2 

                                                  Whitehawk style once again ‘ S ‘ profiled,closed and simple bowls with everted,thickened and simple rims. Simple oval lugs are common and maybe perforated. Stabs and incisions are the two most decorations evident.Comb cord and fingernail impressions are also found.

Neolithic Burnished Pottery Sherd  Neolithic burnished pottery sherd.

Sherds Early neolithic bowlSherds from an Early Neolithic pot.

Early Neolithic Pot 4,000 BC Early Neolithic Pot 4,000 BC

Decorated bowlEarly Neolithic Decorated Bowl.


Posted by on December 8, 2012 in Archaeology, Archaeology and Pottery

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