4.14 Anglo-Saxon Ceramics

by Christine Haughton *

The assessment of the Anglo-Saxon ceramics has been fully integrated into the body of this document (3.7.1 Ceramics above) and requires only limited addition here.

The total number of Anglian sherds stands at around 10,000 sherds, this figure taking into account a percentage of those sherds not yet assigned a date. Around 75% of the sherds were recovered from the Grubenhäuser and these are generally in reasonable condition. Those recovered from surface areas are much more fragmentary in nature. Fewer than 5% of the sherds are decorated. Less Middle Saxon material was identified than was anticipated. However, as has been discussed above, the similarity of the Middle Saxon pottery fabrics to those of the Bronze Age and later Romano-British wares has made precise identification difficult, and it is likely that the Middle Saxon component will only fully emerge after detailed examination of the context data and associated finds together with further petrological analysis. A probable Middle Saxon import of stamped and amber-glazed ware was recovered from a well-sealed deposit in the base of one of the Grubenhäuser. It also appears likely that the late Romano-British calcite-gritted ware, produced locally during the 4th century, continued well into the 5th century. Stratigraphic analysis will determine whether or not this is the case.

4.14.1 Methodology

The Anglo-Saxon ceramics were recorded in the field with the other finds. For each sherd the record includes such data as 3D location, preliminary dating, fabric group, vessel element and surface treatments, decorative techniques and motifs; the date field was assigned only when there was a high degree of certainty and therefore this material appears under-represented in the database as a whole. Once full analysis takes place the material will require re-examination and some degree of re-classification in the light of the petrological analysis by Alan Vince and Jane Young and the examination of the Wykeham and Seamer material undertaken as a separate project. A large number of sherds that did not have a date assigned in the field are likely to be of Anglian date; many however are merely fragments and will not have a major impact on the analytical programme. During the analytical phase further data will be added, including vessel form and size, weight, percentage surviving and more detailed phasing. Cross-joining across the site will also be examined and minimum and maximum vessel counts established. The well-sealed Grubenhäuser assemblages will form the bulk of the forthcoming analytical work.

During the 1995 excavation season one of the volunteer team, a potter, conducted a series of experiments. Using locally derived clay he made a selection of clay bars and Anglo-Saxon style vessels using varying percentages of different tempering agents and fired these in a reconstruction of an Anglo-Saxon kiln. The results of these experiments, including temperatures reached within the kiln and firing survival rates, will be made available to the Project and to Alan Vince for comparative analysis.

The principal research areas to be addressed in the analytical programme for the Anglo-Saxon ceramic material are as follows:

4.14.2 Significance of the assemblage

The assemblage from West Heslerton is the largest from any site of its kind in the north of England; it is well documented and accurately recorded in terms of both location and stratigraphy.

The Anglo-Saxon ceramic assemblage from West Heslerton clearly forms a primary type series for the study of sites of this period in the region. The detailed field recording of the ceramics and the spatial resolution of the database as a whole provide us with a tremendous analytical opportunity. The difficult process of phasing this site will rely heavily on assemblage analysis, as there is so little clearly dateable material and limited stratigraphic relationships over much of the site. The identification of Middle-Saxon assemblages late in the excavation programme is important since this unanticipated occupation phase has considerable importance at the southern end of the site. Clearly the question of continuity is of fundamental importance and major new evidence recovered in 1995 will enable us to address this both from a stratigraphic and a material culture viewpoint. The data recently examined from the other two local sites of this period provide an opportunity for a regional review of Anglo-Saxon ceramics, an opportunity that should not be lost since unexpected contrasts have already been identified (Haughton and Powlesland forthcoming).


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Last updated: Tue Dec 15 1998