The similarity between Iron Age and Saxon pottery, particularly in East Anglia, can cause problems where no other dating evidence is available.There is a large amount of archaeological evidence for the pottery industry from the Middle Saxon period onwards, in the form of products and production sites.The following is a basic introduction to pottery in archaeology, focusing particularly on the ceramics of the medieval period.The bibliography at the end provides references to more detailed and comprehensive sources.The main requirements of the industry were: This means that production sites were generally situated on clay subsoils near woodland in rural areas.Rural potteries probably only operated part-time and the potters were peasants who spent most of their time farming.Multi-flue types were also used later, allowing greater capacity and needing peat or coal as fuel.Methods of stacking vessels in kilns are interpreted from excavated kilns which contain partial loads, but can also be reconstructed from kiln scars on glazed pottery and kiln bars, and from the direction of glaze drips on decorated vessels.
The single flue type was in use from the Late Saxon period to the 13th c., and was superseded by the double flue type.
Occasionally whole vessels are found, particularly where they have been used as grave goods or cremation 'urns'.
These are important in providing us with a type series of vessel forms, although broken vessels can be just as useful for this. The clay from which it is made often contains pieces of burnt flint or other stone and the pottery appears very coarse.
The latter were often used in cremation cemeteries to hold the ashes of the deceased.
Urban potteries, for example in Thetford, Norwich and Ipswich, flourished in the Mid-Late Saxon period with most declining afterwards.