Pottery from Rendlesham – Excavations 2021

Sue holding a piece of pottery at her office

Sue Anderson, a freelance specialist is the Rendlesham Revealed project specialist for pottery and has completed the initial analysis of the pottery excavated from Rendlesham last summer. Sue is our guest writer this week to tell us more.

The identification and recording of the pottery from the site involves dividing sherds into ‘fabrics’ – the clay matrix and the inclusions either naturally occurring or deliberately added – and ‘forms’ – the shape and type of vessel, whether a jar or bowl, or more rarely a lamp or dish. The sherds are then quantified (count, weight, estimated number of vessels) in these groups and added to a database. This can be used to look at patterns in the data – where different fabrics and forms are found across the site, and whether the proportions are significantly different between features. The information can also be used to provide spotdates for each context.

Approximately 2000 sherds were recovered during the 2021 excavations. The assemblage includes a small quantity of prehistoric and Roman sherds, and some medieval and later fragments which were mostly collected from topsoil. The majority of sherds, though, are fragments of handmade Early Anglo-Saxon pots.

fragment of grey pottery
Pottery fragment

Most of these are small to medium rounded or carinated vessels which have traces of sooting at the rims and around the bases, showing that they had been used for cooking. Very few are decorated, but some have incised lines in the form of bands of triangles and one or two are stamped. The range of fabrics is typical of SE Suffolk, and is heavily dominated by shell-tempered wares. This fabric type is common in other periods in this part of the county and reflects the use of clays from the ‘Crag’ underlying geology. Sandy fabrics are also common, and may represent the use of alluvial clays. Of most interest in this group, however, is the use of deliberate temper in the form of calcined bone, something which appears to be rare at other sites.

The forms include some which can be dated to the 5th century, but most of the jars and bowls are globular/rounded forms and this, together with the fabrics identified, suggests that much of the assemblage dates to the 6th century.

If you are interested in volunteering for the next season of fieldwork, you can join our e-newsletter mailing list to receive updates.

This fieldwork is part of the community archaeology project Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South-East Suffolk, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are very grateful to our many local and national partners who have made this project possible, and for the support of our volunteers and of the landowners and farmers who work and manage this historic landscape.

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