9th Experimental Archaeology Conference poster – Wickenden

Making pots that fail: The thermal resistance of large crushed angular quartz tempered pottery, with reference to the early British south west Neolithic

Angela Wickenden

University of Exeter

This paper presents an early, recently designated, regional Neolithic pottery fabric from southwest Britain, restricted to Devon and Cornwall. It represents the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition. This fabric, which has been called large angular crushed vein quartz tempered pottery, has early C14 dates associated it. One of the issues of incorporating large pieces of temper in pottery is whether it is acting as a thermally resistant material or whether it may have had a symbolic significance, over and above a purely technological function. If it would be possible to establish whether or not these inclusions are an effective temper or not, i.e. prevent the pots from cracking whilst being fired then, it may be possible to draw some conclusions or at least offer a tentative interpretations.

Using an experimental methodology, designed by myself, based on producing and quantifying cracks in pottery, correlating data from 19 differing clay paste recipes, containing Upper Greensand sand and large crushed angular vein quartz, the aim is to confirm or suggest that the LACVQT is not an adequate thermally resistant material. The pottery was fired in three bonfires. Quantification and analysis of inclusions in the early Neolithic pottery types of southwest Britain has recently been completed.

Due to large possibility of huge variations in firing condition each clay paste recipe was fired twice in different bonfires. A crack analysis tool was designed to quantify the cracks and crack types. The whole experiment now requires repetition to verify data collected. Large angular vein quartz tempered pottery has multiple surfaces cracking around the large inclusions and this pattern was reproduced in the experimental collection.

The paper considers the wider archaeological questions of distribution, the possibility of exploring the production and whole chaîne opératoire of British southwest Neolithic pottery experimentally and the likely clay sources of the region.


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