Friday, 27 March 2015

A tale of two pots

People often think that archaeology is all about finding artefacts - precious things, rare things, old things. It's not - it's about people. How they lived, where they lived, what their concerns, hopes and fears might have been, and how those people shaped the landscape in ways that still influence our settlements and behaviour today.
But often, the window into those lives lived long ago is through the artefacts they left behind. And today's post is a tale of two pots: one local, one international, that tell us about economy, industry and trade in Worcester hundreds of years ago.
The first piece of pottery is a tiny fragment of a vase made 400 miles away, in the South Netherlands. It's a piece of 'South Netherlands Tin-glazed Maiolica', one of a group of wares commonly called 'Delft ware'. It was made in the 16th or early 17th century, as Worcester was thriving on the profits of the cloth trade, and before the turmoil of the Civil War. The picture on the right shows what the complete vessel would have looked like, based on an example found in Exeter. These imports are rarely found in Worcester. They would have been treasured possessions, and show that over 400 years ago, trade links to the continent were far-reaching.
South Netherlands Tin-glazed Maiolica, 16th/early 17th century
The second piece has travelled less than 400 metres from its place of manufacture, and is evidence of the success of home-grown industry and innovation. In 1751, the Worcester Porcelain Company began production at a factory on the site of the Copenhagen Street car park. The company quickly gained a reputation for producing the finest English porcelain available, and were a fixture of Worcester industry for over 250 years.
The example below is unusual: haphazard splodges of red, black and gold are smeared across both faces. We think it was probably a 'test piece', to check the colour of the glaze after firing or to test a new decoration technique. It may then have been either discarded or sold cheaply as a 'second'.
Worcester Porcelain 'test piece'
These two pots, one local and one international, take us back to the processes of trade and industry that laid the foundations for the city we know today, and ultimately to the people who made, imported, bought and enjoyed them.

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