Mapping pottery

The English Landscape and Identities (EngLaID) project is an important research endeavour that is also getting it right in how it notifies the wider world of the progress it makes. Project team members have individually and jointly published a number of articles, such as one in the journal Medieval Settlement Research which I referenced at the end of my analysis of the name and archaeology of Thorpe. As if that wasn’t enough, EngLaID website happens to be a regularly-updated WordPress blog.

The following post is a perfect encapsulation of its exciting and often astonishingly deep approach to investigating the changes in the landscape of prehistoric and early historic England. In particular, its take on the troubles with the ceramics of what are termed the early medieval centuries is striking, especially in contrast to the somewhat greater clarity with which the prehistoric material is understood. Some in Surrey have floated the idea that part or all of the county area was aceramic for part of the “Anglo-Saxon” centuries, which I find far-fetched and born out of a lack of detailed work on the early medieval pottery found in the county. Use is made of Paul Blinkhorn et al‘s recent book on Ipswich Ware which I got for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to reading in full to work out for myself the context of ceramic production and usage in England, and hence perhaps to get a better feel for the situation in Surrey. For now, I commend to you the complex delights of the blog post’s analysis, and the simple delight of its animated GIF map of Roman pottery distributions.

English Landscape and Identities

Following on from suggestions (primarily by Prof. Barry Cunliffe) at our Academic Advisory Board meeting last year, we started thinking about how we might map aceramic (or minimally ceramic-using) zones through our time period. Due their general commonness and generally diagnostic nature, ceramic finds are probably the most commonly used method for dating archaeological contexts and, thus, by extension sites as a whole. As such, in areas where ceramic objects were little used, it becomes more difficult (and probably more expensive) to date sites. This, in turn, is likely to result in sites in aceramic areas being less precisely dated. This could, therefore, bias the distribution of sites of a particular period in the archaeological record, as sites in aceramic zones within a particular period are less likely to be securely dated to that period.

However, actually mapping aceramic zones is not especially easy. To do so, one must first…

View original post 1,570 more words


About Robert J S Briggs

Back to being a part-time early medievalist; Surrey born, London based, been known to travel
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