9th Experimental Archaeology Conference abstract – Dennis and Freer

Viking platters and baking plates: experimental manufacture and use

Ian Dennis and Clara Freer

Cardiff University

This paper discusses and expands, using experimental work, research by Dr. Alan Lane on Hebridean Viking/Norse ceramics, and in particular probable baking plates from the site of Bornais, South Uist, Western Isles. It has been demonstrated by Lane (2013) that the Western Isles has a unique tradition of handmade ceramic production within the British Isles, spanning from the Neolithic to the nineteenth century AD. The Viking/Late Norse levels from a number
of sites in the Hebrides have revealed unique forms of ceramics including the appearance of circular pottery discs or platters. These ‘platters’ are thought to emulate Scandinavian Viking age steatite baking plates and are thin flat pottery discs. The platters have a variety of forms, some with finger mark depressions and occasional stab marks on their upper surface, some only with finger mark depressions, and some finger-wiped with stab marks on their upper surfaces. Many have grass/chaff marking on their basal surfaces. Until now, the nature of platter production and their use as baking plates has never been tested. Through experimental manufacture and use of platters we aim to identify their possible purposes and consider manufacturing constraints (including the amount of clay in weight used, the temper, size, styles and different forms found on the excavations). We also intend to approach questions of gendered production through an examination of the size of the finger marks found on platters from Bornais. This work was initiated at Oerlinghausen Open Air Museum with the support of Roland Paardekooper and undertaken during a 5 week field work placement of Cardiff archaeological students.

Lane, A., 1990. Hebridean pottery; problems of definition, chronology, presence and absence, in I. Armit (ed.), Beyond the brochs. Changing perspectives on the Later Iron Age in Atlantic Scotland, 108-130, Edingburgh

Lane, A., 2013. Viking and Late Norse ceramic baking plates in the Hebrides, in A. Reynolds and L. Webster (ed.), Early Medieval Art and Arcaeology in the Northern World, 211-229, Leiden-Boston

Parker Pearson , M., forthcoming, Cille Pheadir: A Norse period farmstead on South Uist Sharples, N., (ed.), 2005. A Norse farmstead in the Outer Hebrides. Excavations at Mound 3 Bornais, South Uist, Oxford

Sharples, N. forthcoming. A Norse farmstead in the Outer Hebrides. Excavations at Mound 2 Bornais, South Uist



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