Newsletter No. 48 - April 2004
Council met on 20th January at the Society of Antiquaries in London. Top of the agenda was a forward strategy for the group. As a starting point for discussion, the President circulated an outline document, taking as its starting point Medieval Ceramic Studies in England (1994). On a more specific note, Council discussed ways in which MPRG could have input into the current EH-led initiative to produce regional research guidelines. One region (East Anglia) has already published a research agenda; other regions are in various stages of consultation or resource assessment. It would be desirable to get representation on to the various steering groups if we want direct input into these projects. Access to information is the key - we need to stress that HERs should contain proper records of finds and environmental data, and require indices so that researchers can find key sites, findspots, etc. So much ceramic work is currently published only in grey literature. Digital data is also of increasing importance - in the future, HERs will be attaching site archives (including digital data) to their records.
Volume 25 of Medieval Ceramics will be out shortly. This volume has received over 50% funding through various grants (which will be fully acknowledged in the volume). Volume 26, which will carry papers from the Irish conference in 2002, is also well advanced, and sufficient papers have already been received for Volume 27, which will include the Scottish White Gritty Wares report. The Editorial Committee's aim to seek a higher level of funding for these and future volumes will enable us to build up reserves which could be used, for example, for digital publishing projects.
The provisional programme and booking form for this year's annual conference in Winchester are circulated with this newsletter, together with agenda and reports for the AGM which will be held at the conference. We hope to see as many members as possible there, for what promises to be a very stimulating conference. It is hoped that next year's conference, which will be a one-day event, will be held at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Some members may also be planning to attend the EAA conference to be held in Lyons in September, where MPRG will be represented in order to discuss the European Production Centres Project.
The next Council meeting will be held during the Winchester conference.
Lorraine Mepham, Secretary
Database of European Production Centres
The proposal for a round table at this years EAA conference in Lyons has now been accepted by the scientific committee. With this in mind I have created a group e-mail list in order to keep all interested parties up to speed. If anyone has not registered an interest in this project with me could they please do so.
Derek Hall, Assistant Secretary
Regional Research Frameworks
The development of regional research frameworks is being encouraged, and in part funded, by English Heritage in an attempt to close the gap between research/academic archaeology and PPG16 led fieldwork. These are local initiatives influenced by local archaeologists and will have an effect on future work. The best way to make sure that a ceramic research agenda is included in the framework for your region is to participate in the meetings. The first stage is the resource assessment (what do we have and what are the problems and potential of the resource) followed by the compilation of the research frameworks. This is the state of play as of February.
- East Anglia - Published and now undergoing a revision
- West Midlands - The resource assessment is almost finished with many papers on-line but further meetings will be held in 2005
- East Midlands - About half way through the resource assessment stage
- North West - About 9 months into the resource assessment
- London - Completed
- Kent - Submitted proposal
- South West - At project design stage
- North East - At project design stage
Having been involved in the West Midlands Regional Research Frameworks I would encourage any one who isn't already to get involved.
Victoria Bryant MA MIFA, Historic Environment Record Manager, Worcestershire County Council Historic Environment and Archaeology Service, Woodbury Hall, University College Worcester, Henwick Grove, Worcester WR2 6AJ, tel 01905 855494
Now that the decision has been taken to no longer publish a bibliography in Medieval Ceramics but to concentrate on an online version can I direct members to http://ntserver002.liv.ac.uk/mprg/ where they will find this excellent resource.
In Memory of John Hurst
The editors would like to invite any member of MPRG to contribute towards compiling a fitting tribute to John in the next journal. This will be published in the spring of 2005. As well as formal obituaries it would be nice to include shorter contributions from anybody who feels they would like to comment on their association with John, either as a work/pottery colleague, travelling companion or simply for his friendship.
Please send any submissions or photographs you may have to; The Editors, MPRG c/o MOLSS Mortimer Wheeler House, London, N1 7ED by 1st September 2004.
Can those of you who have not yet paid your subscriptions for 2004 please do so? Any queries please contact Nigel Jeffries
Historical Archaeology Conference: Continuity and Change
York, 5-10 January 2005
Regional Group Reports
Sourcing Scottish White Gritty Ware
The first draft report on this project has now been submitted to Historic Scotland, with the intention of publication in Medieval Ceramics and SAIR (Scottish Archaeological Internet Reports). As part of this project Dr Richard Jones and his students carried out further geophysical survey of the unscheduled and uncultivated field directly adjacent to the excavated kilns at Colstoun.
The Scottish Group is holding a seminar on 30th April in Customs House, Leith with the main focus of discussion being the continuing plough damage at the Colstoun production centre. Progress on the New Review of pottery imported into Medieval Scotland will also be discussed. There are still spaces available for this please contact me if you are interested in attending.
Malagan Lustreware from Horsecross, Perth
Excavations at Horsecross, Perth
The initial spot dating of the large assemblage from the Horsecross excavation has just been completed. It contains the first examples of an 11th/12th century fabric which is also found in Lincolnshire (pers comm A Vince) and some rare examples of late medieval imported wares from Iberia and Green Glazed stonewares from Siegburg in Germany. D Hall can also confirm that it has also produced several pieces of kiln furniture, the potters are out here somewhere on the northern limits of Perth!
Computer Based Methodologies for Pottery Analysis
English Heritage is funding the development of a flexible database system for the cataloguing, dissemination and archiving of archaeological data. On completion of the project, it is intended that the system will be made freely available to other archaeologists. The pilot scheme at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, is being implemented by Phil Mills through a study the Romano-British pottery assemblage from Hayton, East Yorkshire, under the direction of Prof Martin Millett and Dr Jerry Evans. It is intended that the database will be developed to become as useful for ceramics of any period, for small finds and even animal bones.
The development team are well aware that to make the most of the technology it is important that implement strategies are discussed among likely users. They duly organised a one-day conference to explain and demonstrate how the system is being developed and requesting and encouraging feedback from delegates in order to improve the database. On Saturday 24th April 2004, Anna Slowikowski and I were among twenty delegates at the meeting held.at the McDonald Institute.
The title, 'Digital archiving for the pottery specialist made easy' held a clue to the hidden agenda, the wish that users would in the fullness of time, deposit their archives with the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), and in the morning, as well as useful introductions by Millett, Evans and Mills, we had the sales pitch from the ADS rep. Apart, of course, from lunch and the networking opportunities, the 'best bit' was in the afternoon, a 90-minute workshop, a hands-on session playing with the database and offering our criticisms. This was followed by more than enough time in seminar for feed back between the delegates.
The system allows linking to context information, and to in-house and regional or national fabric and form 'type' series. It incorporates software for analysis as well as for data entry. It is intended to be used alongside excel and word to produce report ready tables and graphs. It can produce drawing lists. In my opinion, the system is already readily adaptable for use at multi-period sites, and I am joining the queue to get a copy as soon as possible.
Our meetings Secretary is endeavouring to get at least a demonstration of the system at the MPRG annual conference in Winchester in June. A report on the project is to be given at the Roman Pottery Research Group conference on 3rd–5th July 2004.
An Unusual Medieval Floor Tile From Chester
A somewhat worn medieval floor tile excavated by Chester Archaeology from the nave of Chester Cathedral is on display alongside ancient silks and T'ang ceramics in a major exhibition at the British Library. The tile is one of several hundred exhibits which have been loaned by museums in China, Japan, India, France, Germany and the United Kingdom for 'The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith'. The exhibition explores the history, cultures and everyday life of the ancient route through central Asia. The floor tile was made in Cheshire but the reason for its inclusion in the exhibition is its design of three hares linked by their ears so that whilst only three ears have been drawn each hare has two ears (see Figure).
This motif also appears in wall paintings dating from the seventh century found in the elaborately decorated Caves of a Thousand Buddhas at Dunhuang, north-west China. These caves were used as shrines where merchants would go to pray before setting off on their long journeys. It has been suggested that the motif travelled along the Silk Road eventually appearing in northern Europe in the fourteenth/fifteenth century. The design appears on a relatively small number of tiles found in Chester and there is only one complete example from the city; the same motif but in a different design also appears on a tile from Long Crendon, Oxfordshire. A group of researchers (The Three Hares Project) have been recording objects and buildings where the three hares occur in an effort to prove the origins of the design. The exhibition runs from 7th May to 12th September 2004.