Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Black Burnished Ware

Not many people know that a type of pottery has been produced in the Poole/Dorset area for nearly 2,000 years. It's called Black Burnished Ware. This is a type of Romano-British ceramic with its roots in the earlier Iron Age. 

BBW 1, as categorised by archaeologists, is the black, coarse and gritty pottery distributed throughout Britain from Dorset in the first centuries of the Roman occupation. Originally hand made it was then wheel-thrown and contains iron ores, flint, quartz and other materials as inclusions to stop the bowls, dishes and jars from exploding in the kiln.   

BBW 2 is more gray in colour with a finer texture, with the body being hard and sandy with inclusions of iron ore, mica and quartz. This category was also made in the Thames estuary of Essex (my home county) and Kent.

The early BBW was made in well established Iron Age kilns in Dorset using local clays and traditional techniques. After the invasion in AD 43 potters used the wheel-thrown technology brought in by the Romans and supplied the army and civilian settlements with finely made wares. It was also used as part of grave goods and we find many examples in that context, including the Maiden Castle cemetery and the Portesham 'Mirror' burial.   

Poole Harbour had excellent seams of clay, fuel and water supplies and of course a huge and safe harbour for exports. Dorchester excavations have produced large collections of fragments used for storage, domestic use and preparation of foodstuffs but no evidence that it was used for cooking over a fire. 

I have a very nice example that I show people who come on my walks and always point out that Poole has this ancient tradition of pottery manufacture that continues to this day.

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