Saturday, 18 May 2019

Neolithic Pottery Firing Weekend



As I am making all these pots, they will have to be fired and this’s  going to happen at an event being held  weekend of 14/06 at Alan Bruford’s Forest School,  Beacon  Cross Copse, Talaton , Devon. https://m.facebook.com/events/475518046350931/?event_time_id=475518053017597&ref=bookmarks&_rdr

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

So pleased and happy

First Neolithic Gabbro carinated bowl. I suppose the model for this would be the Windmill Hill bowl which is in the British Museum.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Operation gabbro/Hembury bowl.

The reenactment  of a ceramic chaine operatoire is a lengthy labor intensive  business. I’ve been  teaching my prehistoric pottery course over the last 2 weeks and this has involved going out prospecting for clays, on Creusa Down.
So as a team we have dug out gabbro clay in the Lizard, Cornwall from 3-4 locations. This  involved  deturfing, digging a hole and then auguring out the clay.  We took a bucket from each location.  The second step is then processing the clay until it is plastic enough to make pots.  This is done either by wet or dry processing. Robin and Mallory, in the picture,  did all the work (heroes)

Mallory is dry processing by crushing and sieving the clay and we wet processed the clay and then had to sieve it to remove all the stone. The wet slip is then dried on a plaster or wooden bat. My colleagues at Flameworks have remarked on the amount of work that is required to make this clay I to a material plastic enough to make a pot.  Contemporary studio potters normally use co mmercial bagged clays.  we’ve made shrinkage and temperature test tiles. 



When a new Clay is dug test need to be performed to test its plasticity, it’s shrinkage rate and it’s firing/ maturing temperature. Most clays will likely fire to 750*C before melting so we’ve made four tiles to test each clay. They dill be fired successively higher each time starting at 750*C , then 950*C , 1150*C and maybe  , if they don’t melt before this last high temperature to 1250*C. If it is possible to fire them up to 1250*C maintain shape, performance with a fairly low shrinkage rate then we would have found a good potting, stoneware clay. 
                                              
Once the test tiles have been fired the various shrinkage rates  be worked out for dry ware, totally dry ware, shrinkage once fired at the successive temperatures. Most shrinkage occurs between wet/plastic  stage. The best way to achieve plasticity is age the clay for over a year butwe don’t have time for that b

Thursday, 2 May 2019

A moment in Time during the Neolithic.

So, I researched the Hembury Causewayed Enclosure Ceramic assemblage , which gave me a more intimate connection to the potters who had made these pots. They had left all sorts of marks on these pots. Burnishing marks, wipe marks , adjoining coils/flat sausages, finger nail imprints. There was little or no decoration on these pots but they were made rapidly, not highly crafted as the Hembury Bowl was.
But later, thoughts about the connection between the C14 dates and the sherds began to emerge and to capture this , I’ve had to write it down before it escapes me again.
So the C14 dates from Gathering Time gives us broad parameters of a range of time - about  100-150 years in which these pots occur in the archaeological  record. But paradoxically, a piece of pottery or flint tool are just a moment in time.  There’s a disconnect between these two ideas. It’s almost a paradox. A dialectic. It’s an archaeological problem from which chronological theories have emerged.

So experimental archaeology, the production of replica ceramics , re-enactment of a ceramic chaine  operatoire can provide an insight into these problems.  As the experimental archaeologist , I am the actor who performs the chaine. My lifetime and the making of a few Neolithic pots gives me a perspective on just how much of that 150 years it takes to make these pots.
And the specific insight, for the archaeologist is that, in terms of time, this pot would take about 30- 45 minutes to make , a couple of hours to fire, and could further define Whittles calendrical, generational , perspectives down to limits of minutes and hours, even begin to look at an individual Neolithic potters activities.

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Chaine Operatoire and movement of people, skills, materials, pots, and time in the Southwest British Neolithic.

The 
chaîne opératoire is a model for determining the technical sequence for the making of objects where there is evidence missing for that production process. For example, there is little or no evidence for firing ceramics during the British  Neolithic except for the pottery itself.  Inference  is used to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about production of objects found in the archaeological record. 
It was devised by Andre Leroi-Gourham in 1964. He was a French cultural anthropologist. It became used by archaeologists globally due to the relationship between social groups and technological behaviors  being established by ethnoarchaeologists such as Gosselain, Lemonnier, Arnold. 
For an experimental ceramic archaeologist, it has provided the re-enactment of making a Neolithic replica pot with a structure to carry out the whole production sequence from sourcing raw materials, processing them, making the pots and firing them.  This sequence of ceramic production is a universal. Criticisms of the chaine leveled are that it is subjective , heuristic. But in the case of ceramics this is not so. It’s impossible to make a pot without following this sequence.  It’s the individual parts if the chaine which become diverse and are dependent on the behaviors of specific social groups. 
To assess and Ceramic assemblage within the Chaine Operatoire model, three characteristics of the assemblage need to be recorded. 
1. The method of manufacture, the surface marks or finishing which have been left on the pot. 
2. The provenance of raw materials through petrographic analysis which provides information on the clay paste recipes and the tempers used. 
3. 

The Hembury bowl and gabbro clay

This is the Hembury bowl. It’s curated and on permanent exhibition at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.  It was found by Dorothy Liddell in the 1930’s, whilst excavating the Iron Age Hillfort.  During the excavation, the Causewayed Enclosure was found at the north end with a considerable amount of Neolithic pottery. The chronologies for this period were constructed by Stuart Piggott based on the assemblages and stratification of Windmill Hill which was excavated in the late 1920's.

It wasn't until the 1960's that Peacock used petrographic, thin section analysis techniques to determine the  provenance of archaeological ceramics.  He determined that the Hembury bowl was made from gabbro clay from the Lizard.  This threw up  the question - were the potters transporting the clay or the pots from the Lizard? re-enacting a chaine operatoire can maybe enlighten this quandary. I dig out clay and don't make the pots on the site, I take it home with me to my workplace and make the pots there.

Chronology is vital here and the recent work of   Alastair Whittle in Gathering Time: Dating the early Neolithic Enclosures in Southern Britain and Ireland (Whittle et al, 2011) sets out The Bayesian recalibration of older C14 dates highlighting the errors that had accrued in chronologies and pushed back the start of the Neolithic by between 1000-2000 years. The period under consideration in this dissertation is in a range of two to three hundred years.
One of the earliest dates for the period is from Broadsands chambered tomb, nr Torquay, (Sheridan et al, 2008), at 3940cal BC- and there are a few sherds of quartz tempered pottery associated with the human remains in the tomb. Hembury and Helman Tor, have the earliest C14 dates for enclosures in the region and were being constructed approximately 3700calBC. The C14 dates from Hembury were from residues on ceramic and Helman Tor from charcoal. (Whittle et al 2011). C14 dates for Raddon are based on charcoal samples and the enclosure was likely in use for only a hundred years (Whittle et al 2011).



Bibliography-I will annotate this( this is a provisional Bibliography).


Appadurai, A.(1986). The Social Life of Things. Commodities in perspective. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge.
Brown, A. The Social Life of Flint at Neolithic Hembury. 10, 1989 Page(s)46-9
Cornwall Archaeological Journals
D. Peacock  No  6   40 - 44
D. Peacock  No  8   47 - 65
R. Mercer   No 20    1 - 205
H. Quinnel  No 26    1 - 7
G. Smith    No 26   13 – 67
FOSTER, G. M.
1948 Empire's children, the people of Tzintzuntzan. Smithsonian InsL, Insl. Soc.
AnthropoL, Pub. 6. Washington.
1948a .Some implications of modern Mexican mold-made pottery. Southwest Jour,

Anthropoid 4:356-70. Albuquerque

,rrad, L. (2003) The Production and Trade of Prehistoric Ceramics in Cornwall.

, Volume 1. University of Oxford, 2003 - 1120 pages
Harrad, L.(2004) Gabbroic clay sources ijn Cornwall: A petrographic analysis of prehistoric pottery and clay samples. Oxford Journal of Archaeology. Vol23,Issue 3. Pp271-286.
Liddell, DM. (1930) report on Excavations of Hembury Fort,  Devon. Devon Archaeological Society  Liddell, DM. Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort, Devon, 1930. 1, 1929-32 Page(s)39-63
Liddell, DM. Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort. Third Season 1932. 1, 1929-32 Page(s)162-190
Liddell, DM. Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort. 4th and 5th Seasons, 1934 and 1935. 2, 1933-6 Page(s)135-175
RCHME: Industry and Enclosure in the Neolithic: Hembury http://www.pastscape.org.uk/monumentinfo.aspx?a=0&hob_id=1181774 Accessed 22/12/12
Peacock, DPS 1969 neolithic Pot production Cornwall. Antiquity 43 Peacock, DPS, 1969 Neolithic pot production in Cornwall. Antiquity 43. 145-149.
Smith, I. Causewayed Enclosures. Page(s)89-112
Thomas. J, (1999) Understanding the Neolithic. London. Routledge.
Todd. M. Todd, M. Excavations at Hembury (Devon), 1980-83: a summary report. 64, 1984 Page(s)251-68
Whittle. A, (2003). The Archaeology of people: Dimensions of Neolithic Life. London. Routledge.
Wilson, DF. Causewayed Camps and Interrupted Ditch Systems. 49, 1975 Page(s)178-85
Wood, I. (2011)Changing the fabric of life in post-Roman and early medieval Cornwall : an investigation into social change through petrographic analysis Thesis (Ph.D.) - Exeter University, College of Humanities.
Web Sources.
Harrads Bibliography
apsimon, a. and greenfield, e. 1972: The excavation of a Bronze Age and Iron Age settlement at
Trevisker, St Eval, Cornwall. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 38, 302–81.
carlyon, p.m. 1982: A Romano-British site at Kilhallon, Tywardreath: excavation in 1975. CornishArchaeology 21, 155–70.
carlyon, p.m. 1985: Romano-British Gabbroic Pottery (Truro, Cornwall Archaeological Unit desktopublication).
curtis, l.f., courtney, f.m. and trudgill, s. 1976: Soils in the British Isles (London).
deer, w.a., howie, r.a. and zussman, j. 1966: An Introduction to the Rock-Forming Minerals (London).
edmonds, e.a., mckeown, m.c. and williams, m. 1975: British Regional Geology: South-West England (London, British Geological Survey).
harrad, l.j. 2003: A ‘Sacred’ Source? Investigating the phenomenon of Cornish clays. In Humphrey, J.(ed.), Re-searching the Iron Age (Leicester, Leicester Archaeology Monographs No. 11), 11–16.
mercer, r.j. 1986: The Neolithic in Cornwall. Cornish Archaeology 25, 35–80.
parker-pearson, m. 1990: The Production and Distribution of Bronze Age pottery in South-West Britain. Cornish Archaeology 29, 5–33.
peacock, d.p.s. 1968: Apetrological study of certain Iron Age pottery from Western England. Proceedingsof the Prehistoric Society 34, 414–27.
peacock, d.p.s. 1969a: Neolithic Pottery Production in Cornwall. Antiquity 43, 145–9.
peacock, d.p.s. 1969b: A Romano-British salt-working site at Trebarveth, St Keverne. Cornish
Archaeology 8, 47–65.
peacock, d.p.s. 1969c: A contribution to the study of Glastonbury Ware from South-Western Britain.Antiquaries Journal 49, 41–61.
peacock, d.p.s. 1988: The Gabbroic Pottery of Cornwall. Antiquity 62, 302–4.
quinnell, h. 1987: Cornish Gabbroic Pottery: the development of a hypothesis. Cornish Archaeology 26, 7–12.
smith, g. 1987: The Lizard Project; Landscape survey 1978–83. Cornish Archaeology 26, 13


Liddell, DM. (1930) report on Excavations of Hembury Fort, Devon. Proceedings of Devon Archaeological Society  1930. 1:2, 1929, 39-63

Liddell, DM. 1931, Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort. Proceedings of Devon Archaeological Society 1:3., 90-120.

Liddell, DM. 1932.  Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort. 4th and 5th Seasons, Proceedings of Devon Archaeological Society 1934 and 1935. 1:4, Page(s)135-175

Liddell, DM. 1932.  Report on the Excavations at Hembury Fort (1934and 1935), Proceedings of Devon Archaeological Society.II:3, 135-175.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

There was a time when there were no ceramic pots.

Ceramic vessels, pots, were first used in the British Isles in the early 5th millennium BC/4000BC onward.  That's 6000 years ago.  We know this as the period which was termed the Neolithic was the first archaeological stratified  layer, or contexts,  to contain ceramic vessels. This period has been termed the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition and is recognised generally as a transition to farming although in the Far east, Russia, China, pottery was first being made by hunter gatherer with the earliest reliably dated C14 determinations being 14000-9000 years ago (Zwelebil et al 2010).

The term for the introduction of first pottery vessels has been called 'ceramisation' (Koojimanns 2010).   He sees this as a social process.
The pot below is a Neolithic, round bottomed pot from Balfarg, Scotland. The 2 sherds are from Hembury Causewayed Enclosure, Devon dated 3850 caL bc.and have been designated as the Hembury  style by Piggott, 1931, and has been referred to as southwest baggy pot tradition. Pots typical of this style can be seen in Exeter Royal Albert memorial Museum. They have also been found at Carn Brea, Cornwall.


Cleal R M J, 2004. Dating and Diversity of the Earliest Ceramics of Wessex and the Southwest England. In Cleal, R M J , and Pollard, J. 2004. Monuments and Material Culture: Papers in Honour of an Avebury Archaeologist: Isobel Smith.  Salisbury. Hobnob Press.

Kooijmans, L., 2010. The ceramisation of the Low Countries: seen as the result of gender specific processes of communication. In Vanmontfort, B., Kooijmans, LL., Amreutz, L., Verhart, L., 2012. Pots, Farmers and Foragers. Pottery traditions and social interaction, in the earliest Neolithic of the Lower Rhine Area. Leiden University Press.

Piggott, S, 1931. The Neolithic Pottery of the British Isles. Archaeology Journal 88,

Zwelebil, M. Jordan, P. 2010.  Ceramics before farming: The Dispersal of pottery Among prehistoric Eurasian Hunter-Gatherers.
Oxford. Taylor and Francis.