Wessex Archaeology

Neolithic 4000BC – 2500BC

Do you know your pottery?
Neolithic 4000BC – 2500BC
· · Early pottery had rounded bases and sometimes had carinations (sharp angles in the vessel wall) and little or no decoration. Later pottery had lots of decoration, on the rim and body, formed by pinching or pressing objects such as bird bones or whipped cord into the clay before firing (in a bonfire type kiln). Grooved Ware is a particular type of pottery with incised lines or 'grooved' decoration. These pots have flat bases and often feel 'soapy' to the touch. This is because crushed pottery (grog) has been added to the clay before making the pot.

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Bronze Age 2500BC – 700BC

Bronze Age 2500BC – 700BC
· Early pots either have large rims or 'collars' which are decorated, or are 'beakers' with round bodies and flaring rims. The clay used to make these pots often feels 'soapy' or 'sandy'. By the Middle Bronze Age pots are either bucket, barrel or globular jars or 'urns'. The clay often contains small pieces of flint. Fingertip or nails were used to decorate the rims and sometimes used in a horizontal line around the body of the pot. Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age jars or bowls were decorated with finger tip impressions, horizontal lines or had been burnished (a shiny surface was produced by rubbing the clay with a smooth object before firing).

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Iron Age 700BC – 43AD

Iron Age 700BC – 43AD
· Early forms were either carinated or rounded jars and bowls. By the middle Iron Age jars and bowls were more rounded in shape, or else were convex or straight sided vessels now commonly called 'saucepan' pots. The potters' wheel was first used in Britain some time around 100BC. Using the wheel enabled potters' to make different shaped pots, some of which were very elegant. Decoration on pottery increased during this period, and included impressed and incised circles, chevrons, horizontal grooves, geometric or curvilinear designs and burnished decoration. In the late Iron Age cordoned decoration was common, particularly around the neck of jars and bowls.

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Wessex Archaeology

Romano-British AD43 – 410

Romano-British AD43 – 410
· · · Most (but not all) pottery was wheelmade very standardised. The Romans introduced new forms such as amphora, flagons and mortaria. Locally made coarseware jars and bowls were used for cooking, food preparation and storage. Finewares, mainly used for dining, included bowls, dishes, cups and beakers. A common early fineware was the shiny red-slipped samian ware from Gaul (France). During the late Roman period numerous British industries produced finewares, sometimes copying samian pottery. Decoration was varied and included burnished zones, wavy lines or lattice patterns, coloured 'slips' (a mix of fine clay and water), and painted decoration.

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Anglo-Saxon AD410 – 1066

Anglo-Saxon AD410 – 1066
· · · · Pottery was handmade (most wheel made pottery was imported from the continent). There was a wide range of shapes and forms, many similar to the earlier Iron Age vessels. Sandy or organic (grass-tempered) fabrics were common. Decoration included impressed, incised and applied motifs.

Medieval AD1066 – 1500

Medieval AD1066 – 1500
· · · Pottery was either handmade or wheelthrown. There was a wide range of coarseware and fineware (becoming finer over time). The main forms were jugs, jars and bowls, with a lot of variety. There were also many specialised forms, such as frying pans, cauldrons, lamps and chicken feeders! Pottery was often decorated with a slip or glaze (glaze is a glassy coating melted onto the surface of the pottery). Decoration included impressed or incised motifs, and some pots were very elaborately decorated.

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Post-medieval 1500 – 1700's

Post-medieval 1500 – 1700's
· · Introduction of stoneware (very hard, usually grey, brown or white in colour). Tin-glazed wares were plain or decorated with painted blue, purple, orange, green and yellow on a white background. Early patterns were geometric, later patterns were Chinese-inspired designs. Redwares (similar to the fabric used for modern flowerpots) were common coarseware fabrics and used for a wide range of purposes.

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