Prehistoric Pottery Project with Bournemouth
University Archaeology Students
Bill Crumbleholme worked on a project with some
students, investigating prehistoric pottery, during the autumn and winter
After the success, see below, further work was
undertaken in late 2007 and 2008.
Clay was sourced from a riverside bank in Purbeck,
the students refined it and prepared it and made some beakers. They also
made a range of inclusions - crushing some of Bill's waster pottery from
the seasons bonfires.
A visit to Upwey in early December 2006 featured
a bonfire firing of their pottery and some tablets of various blends of
clays and inclusions for analysis.
Below are some images of the day's activities,
which also included Kate Verkooijen's demonstrations of Bronze age cooking
and textiles. This site will feature a separate section on Kate and her
The pottery is just beginning to turn colour, after a couple of hours
of preheating inside a ring of fire. So far no breakages!
A little while later ... the first pot has spalled - the bottom blown
away - obviously the one which took the most work to make (with handles
and everything!) and was previously voted pot most likely to look really
good. Maker Dan had dug his own clay, hence the lighter colour, maybe
it was not quite dried out enough.
Said Dan covering over the pots, now all nicely pre-heated, creating a
firing chamber within the bonfire. The long sticks formed a roof to protect
the pots from mechanical damage and to act like a simple kiln - they burnt
underneath to start with which directed the heat downwards, without wasting
too much straight into the air.
The pyre stacked up high, the flames starting to get a hold.
Going for the burn - the wood flares up - taking the temperature of the
pottery up to about 850 C.
For about half an hour there is a pleasantly warm spectacle to watch,
as the pots begin to glow red within the fire.
Meanwhile Bill tries a quicker way of firing a larger urn. Made at Durrington
Walls in September 2006, it is a piece of Grooved Ware. It has been dried
out (including a brief spell in an electric kiln the night before) and
has been stood on a metal stand over the cooking fire to warm it up. Then
planks of wood were stacked around it to form a simple enclosure, holding
the heat in as the wood burnt.
Bill and Kate take a breather, watching the pagan ritual with St.Laurence
in the background!
After the planks had burnt and fallen away, the pot was revealed - still
in one piece, but with a couple of small cracks running up it.
After a bit of re-arrangement the fire flared up again, trying to bake
Sadly after it had cooled, the pot fell apart when lifted up, the cracks
were worst than they appeared and the pot was not baked through, with
a dark core showing on the broken sections. Another one for the grog bucket!
The main fire was raked out and the pots pulled up with sticks.
They sat around cooling down, until they could be handled and inspected.
Stacked up for comparison - no prizes, but some good trophies to take
home as a reminder of degree level mud pie making!
There were very few breakages, a couple of spalled bases, no cracking
of rims. Some carbon smudging, but that adds a visual enhancement.
The smaller sizes help to avoid cracks caused by temperature differentials
(uneven heating or cooling).