Neolithic Grooved Ware Vessel, Foxhall

in-situ view of fragments during excavation

The vessel belongs to a widespread ceramic tradition called Grooved Ware that spanned Britain and Ireland during the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age.

This astonishingly complete vessel was recovered from a Neolithic pit on a site to the East of Foxhall Hall. The site was excavated in 1991 as part of a water purification project associated with the nearby landfill site. Unrelated Iron Age and Anglo-Saxon settlements were also discovered on the site.

Photograph of the reconstructed Grooved Ware vessel from Foxhall.
Photograph of the reconstructed Grooved Ware vessel from Foxhall

The surface of the vessel has been decorated with geometric patterns using lozenges, chevrons and horizontal lines. The inner areas of the geometric shapes have been filled with impressions made with the end of a tool, and relief decoration was applied to the inside of the pot just below the rim.

The rim of the vessel is an amazing 33cm in diameter. Although there are parts of the vessel missing, we know from the remaining sections that it would have been flowerpot like in shape, with straight sides which taper down towards the base. Although the base of our vessel is missing it probably measured 20-22cm in diameter. The height of the pot would have exceeded 31cm.

The shape and decoration style of this vessel is typical of the Clacton regional style of the Grooved Ware tradition.

Black and white illustration of the pot showing decoration patterns
Illustration showing a Grooved Ware vessel of Clacton Style from Clacton, Essex. Image from Gibson 1997. Publication copyright applies.

Grooved Ware, although used for domestic purposes is thought to have ritual or symbolic meaning. The pottery tradition is associated with chambered tombs and domestic houses in Scotland and henges in Southern Britain. In East Anglia, it is commonly found deposited in Neolithic pits and our vessel is no exception; it was the only find excavated from a pit (measuring 4m in diameter and 1m deep).

Neolithic pot fragments in-situ during excavation
Photograph of the same Grooved Ware vessel at different stage of its excavation from a Neolithic Pit.

Given the associations of Grooved Ware and the circumstances of its discovery it would be fair to interpret our vessel as being a part of a ritual offering. The lack of other archaeological finds in the pit suggests that organic items such as food, textile or flowers could have buried alongside this pot. Although we know this vessel was likely deposited as part of a ritual; there is little evidence of what type of ceremony took place, why it was taking place and who took part.

For more information
Gibson, A. 2002. Prehistoric Pottery in Britain and Ireland. Tempus Publishing Ltd.

Gibson, A, and Woods, A. 1997. Prehistoric Pottery for the Archaeologist. Leicester University Press. London. Second Edition.

Percival, S. 2016. Jigsaw Cambridgeshire Best Practice Users’ Guide: An Introduction to Neolithic to Mid Bronze Age Prehistoric Pottery of Cambridgeshire (PDF).

The ‘From the Vaults’ series is written by the County Council’s Archaeological Archives Officer

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: