Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Report: The Pottery - why field archaeologists need specialists!

A selection of pottery from the Project Results Evening 3rd June 2014

Dr Paul Bidwell, our pottery specialist for this project, has looked at the sherds from the 2013 excavations. Here is a short section of his assessment report:

The date and character of the overall assemblage
Much of the [Roman] pottery [from 2013] was from contexts containing medieval and post-medieval pottery. ... most is datable to the 2nd and 3rd centuries and represents a similar range of sources. All the amphora sherds were from Dressel 20s, from southern Spain; there were many fragments of Mancetter-Hartshill mortaria and a few sherds from mortaria made in the North-West; fine wares consisted of samian ware (often in poor condition) and a single sherd of a Moselle beaker of 3rd-century date. The other coarse pottery was mainly BB1 and grey wares, the latter local, or at least north-western products; there were some oxidised-ware sherds, which generally represented flagons or storage jars.

Some diggers may remember that during the excavation, we found some sherds of mortaria, and thought it was fourth century Crambeck Ware. It now seems that this pottery was in fact from Mancetter Hartshill in the Midlands, and dates between the second and third century! 

Mancetter Hartshill mortarium

The reason we thought it was Crambeck Ware is that some of the sherds had red paint in typical Crambeck patterns, plus the fabrics were pale in colour. However, the hints that it was something else were there, in particular the fabric, which is a little different, but was put down to post depositional action of the soil. Not so! 

It turns out that one of the current theories about Crambeck Ware is that potters from Mancetter Hartshill industry actually moved up to Yorkshire, taking their red painting habits with them. This is a pretty typical example of why archaeologists out in the field also need experts in the various categories of finds - we can't be experts in everything.

The majority of the Ravenglass pottery so far is third century, though there is a scattering of fourth century sherds. Paul Bidwell noted that there is amphora from Spain, Samian from France/Germany and pottery from Germany. So Ravenglass is showing it has connections abroad, and within Britain, which is exactly the sort of thing we should be expecting from a Roman site.