Community Archaeology on the Mendip Plateau

Chewton Mendip Pottery Study Group

As of  November 2018 the Chewton Mendip Pottery Fabric Type Series has 91 different types of pottery fabric, the vast majority being Saxon to c15th century. Post-medieval pottery will be a separate study in the future. 

This study forms a major part of CAMP's activities under the guidance of pottery expert David Dawson and comes about through a series of 6 one-day courses held at Wells Museum in which 5 members studied all aspects of the subject. Not only is CAMP taking a key role in a project being run by David Dawson into the sources of medieval courseware, but it is also studying its own collection of sherds immediately following retrieval from the Saxon and later medieval period excavations at Chewton Mendip. Using a rigorous method of sherd plotting, potential Saxon pottery is being recorded in 3D where found in association with bone and charcoal for C14 dating. In a region thought to be aceramic in the mid-Saxon period and with a site of potential early Saxon date, this excavation offers the best chance to find a start period for coarseware in Somerset. 

Above: Sunken daisy wheel stamped pottery found in contexts radiocarbon dated to later Saxon. (Type 89)

Right: Coarse, poorly sorted and reduced fabric that we associate with the Saxon sherds (Type 89)

Below: Type 68, first turned up in the vicinity of the Saxon soils

Right: Type 23, found throughout the site and associated with pre and post-Norman phases of occupation. 

Does this reflect the use of local clays over a long period?

SANHS Maltwood Fund Supports CAMP

Following two radiocarbon dates of 7th-8th century AD on animal bone found alongside pottery sherds in the lowest levels of the Saxon occupation of the dig site in 2016/7, CAMP applied to the Maltwood Fund for financial support for a Test Pit Project to recover further animal bone and pottery. 

A model was developed in which pottery and animal bone found together and in stratigraphically secure context sequences would be recorded in 3D, with post-excavation selection for radiocarbon dating. The process of identifying and typing all the recovered sherds is underway (Feb 2018). Already the results suggest new types of pottery fabric from the Saxon layers, but with several fabrics having a longevity across the centuries of occupation. This may well reflect very localised use of clays in the vicinity of the dig site. Experiments will follow to retrieve some of the clays locally and compare their inclusions. 

Pottery Database
IT specialist John Bowskill (husband of one of our members) has built a database especially for our pottery. We input all the details of each sherd, identifying any new types with a unique number. In time we hope to be able to interrogate this database in order to build a detailed 3D picture of how the different pottery types were dispersed across our excavation site. Already we can see that a very different type of pottery was occurring in the middle section of our building (which is 35 metres long by the way!). Does this signify a different phase of construction at this point? It's too early to say as yet, but the potential of this database is exciting. 

Medieval Jug reconstruction
Member Brian Irwin has reconstructed a 13th century glazed jug from the sherds found in CAMP's excavations in 2014 at Chewton Mendip. 
13th Century Bristolware Glazed Jug reconstructed and photographed by Brian Irwin

6.12.2018 The Pottery Study Group at their weekly meeting processing the medieval pottery from the summer excavations. In the background the replica pots and shrinkage bars which we fired on 1.12.18 being studied.

Community Archaeology on the Mendip Plateau
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