Bean in the pot

Recent work by Cotswold Archaeology at a site in the south of Exeter has revealed a tantalising glimpse into the prehistoric past of Devon and the wider South West.

Prompted by evidence for Bronze Age settlement (including roundhouses, enclosures and associated fields) from earlier excavations nearby, archaeological investigations took place in advance of development of the site. The area looked at by CA on this occasion seemed to lie on the periphery of this settlement. Scattered pits and boundary ditches were uncovered but most features lacked artefactual evidence to date them clearly. However, as with the earlier excavations, the dig revealed that the Bronze Age inhabitants of this place buried their pottery in a few highly concentrated deposits.

shallow-pit-with-pottery-fragmentsThe most notable of these was a pit containing around 8.5kg of Trevisker Ware: a form of pottery from Cornwall, as the name suggests, found throughout the South West. Over 270 sherds were discovered, probably from a single vessel with a rim around 40cm in diameter (see right). It had been decorated with patterns formed by pressing cord into the fabric before it was fired. The pit was less than 10cm deep and lay just below the modern ploughsoil. Only about a fifth of the vessel was actually present. It is likely that the rest was lost to ploughing, although it is possible that only a proportion of the pot was ever buried. The collecting together of ceramic material for burial in caches hints at particular importance being attached to these objects and their disposal.

bean-in-a-potAn interesting aspect of this material was the presence of a carbonised bean within the fabric of the pot (see left). It should be possible to establish the age of this using radiocarbon dating, and such a short-lived object as a bean, sealed within the wall of the pot as it was being made, should give a relatively close date for its production. This date can be extended to other vessels of similar style and decoration and may serve to refine our understanding of the chronology of Trevisker ware. This could be of wider significance since it might allow for more precise dating of other sites with similar ceramic material – including those already dug, and future excavations.

Martin Gillard