Bronze Age pottery and settlements in southern England
Ann Woodward (University of Birmingham)
Bronze Age Review, Vol. 1, November (2008)
Pottery is often treated as a poor relation in Bronze Age studies. However ceramics have much to offer. During the last forty years a fairly esoteric subject, dominated mainly by detailed analyses of decorative motifs and the construction of elaborate chronological schemes, has been transformed into a powerful source of knowledge which can inform topics as diverse as culinary habits and feasting, the symbolic power of rock inclusions contained in pottery fabrics, and ritual deposition. A summary of recent research directions will pinpoint areas ripe for future study, and the huge potential of settlement studies will also be highlighted.
Following the remarkable gathering together of Bronze Age pottery in the photographic corpus compiled by Abercromby (1912), there was a significant lull in the concerted study Bronze Age pottery. Then from the 1960s onwards a series of doctoral theses were undertaken. As a result, major corpora of Early Bronze Age Beakers (Clarke 1970) and Collared Urns (Longworth 1984) were published, and studies of Food Vessels (Simpson 1968), Biconical Urns and Middle Bronze Age Deverel-Rimbury pottery were undertaken. The back-dating of Early Iron Age ceramics into the Late Bronze Age, and the definition of plain and decorated styles was neatly summarised by Barrett (1980), and a useful overall summary of Bronze Age pottery in Britain is provided by Gibson (2002).