I've been making pots for 54 years (I started young). In all this time I have focused on traditional practical pieces for everyday use. 14 years ago, when I joined the reenactment community, it was exciting to trace the history and replicate the pots used hundreds and thousands of years ago.
Over the years I've studied and reproduced many pots, from early neolithic through the bronze age to the iron age and into early medieval times. The tools I use in my work are those that were used during their original time of making. I find it helps me to connect to and get a deeper understanding of the way of life in those times.
The history of pottery from neolithic to late iron age clearly shows the development (or decline) of us humans during this time. That’s a topic dear to my heart and I could write a treatise on it 😊
During Boyne Valley Viking Experience at Slane Castle, I will have replicas of Viking age and early Medieval pottery, mostly from Ribe in Denmark, a strong Viking port during 8th and 9th century. Another source is Birka in Sweden, a large Viking trading centre where many artifacts were found and are now in the local museum. Some pots from Birka show an eastern influence including their handles & this reflects the Viking trading routes of the time.
Pottery had a low status during the Viking age as silver and other metals were the order of the day. Even though glazing was used in many other parts of Europe, Viking age pottery never developed in that way. Viking pots were often of unglazed clay and fired in a pit using wood. This way of firing renders the clay black. As the flame stays alight, it takes the oxygen from the clay itself creating a carboniferous state.
To us these pieces, with their varying shades of black and burnt clay have a unique beauty but, in their day, they were almost throw away items. Iron age people used clay much more often to fashion cups and bowels for eating and drinking & large cooking pots for the open fire.
Pottery was used by the common people and reflected their quality of life. For example, an ingenious medieval way of creating a fridge was to hang a large pot from a tree in the shade and keep it covered with damp linen. The temperature would then remain at a constant low - Viking ingenuity.
The main source for early Irish medieval pots is from the ‘Wood quay’ excavation in Dublin, a Viking trading town in those times. In fact, Dublin was the largest Viking trading port outside Scandinavia.
If you would like to find out more about medieval pottery and get your own handmade Viking coffee cup, call to see me at the Boyne Valley Viking Experience on the 18th and 19th of May 2024.
Please subscribe and become part of our “Dragon” tribe.