The annual conference of the Study Group for Roman Pottery was held this year at Tullie House Museum in Carlisle. During a weekend in July, delegates heard talks on Roman pottery from Carlisle, other sites in north-west England, and the results of work on larger projects, both in Britain and abroad.
There was also a visit to the Roman fort of Vindolanda, where delegates were treated to a guided tour by Andrew Birley, CEO of The Vindolanda Trust, and the firing of a replica Roman kiln, built by experimental archaeologist and potter, Graham Taylor. There was just about time, too, for a walk along the wall from Gilsland to Birdoswald on Hadrian’s Wall.
Every year at the conference, the John Gillam Prize is awarded to a piece of recent work that has made an important contribution to Roman pottery studies. This year’s prize was awarded to Edward Biddulph, Joyce Compton and Scott Martin for their work on the late Iron Age and Roman assemblage from Elms Farm, Heybridge.
By all accounts, the conference was a great success. Thanks are owed to the staff of the Tullie House Museum for hosting the conference, and to Stephen Wadeson, supported by the SGRP Committee, for organising the weekend.
Conference gallery (photos by David Bird, Diana Briscoe, Joyce Compton, and Stephen Wadeson)
The tour of Vindolanda
The Kiln firing
The SGRP 2017 conference will be held at Tullie House in Carlisle from Friday 14th July to Sunday 16th July. Over the weekend we hope to address several themes, including Roman pottery from North-West Britain and pottery from other larger projects. There will also be a visit to the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage site.
The Committee would like to invite 20 minute papers on recent or current pottery research. While we hope for a particular emphasis on material from the North of Britain, all contributions will be considered. Anyone wishing to give a paper is asked to provide a title and submit a short abstract of c 100-200 words to the Secretary by 31st January 2017.
Further details about the conference will be posted in due course.
Pottery is one of the most common artefacts recovered from archaeological excavations. While it is widely regarded as a reliable tool for dating, pottery is also significant as evidence for technology, tradition, modes of distribution, patterns of consumption, and site formation processes.
But when simple, basic tasks have not been carried out, and the true value of an assemblage has not been understood, the potential for missing important information is too great. With that in mind, A Standard for Pottery Studies in Archaeology takes the reader through the various stages of an archaeological project, from planning and data collection through to report writing and archiving, with the intention of informing not only pottery specialists but also those who manage and monitor projects.
This Standard, produced with funding from Historic England, was compiled by the Prehistoric Ceramics Research Group, the Study Group for Roman Pottery and the Medieval Pottery Research Group, with the aim of creating the first comprehensive, inclusive standard for working with pottery. It is intended for use in all types of archaeological project, including those run by community groups, professional contractors and research institutions.
Click here to download a copy of A Standard for Pottery Studies in Archaeology.
The Insight from Innovation conference, held in honour of David Peacock, provided an opportunity for representatives of the three main pottery groups (SGRP, PCRG and MPRG) to collaborate on a joint paper in honour of David Peacock. The paper reflected on Peacock’s contribution to pottery studies and reviewed some strengths and weaknesses of current practice. This collaboration was itself a significant innovation, for, although sharing many of the same interests, methods and concerns, the three period groups have typically functioned in isolation.
The principal objectives of the published paper were to emphasise shared ambitions and methodologies and to advocate the case for a joint guidance document that would press for appropriate standards of analysis to be maintained, and for innovation to be fostered, in the face of increasing commercial pressures. The collaboration forged between the three groups, while working on this paper, resulted in the production of the joint pottery standards, which have now been published.
The paper, ‘Hold your beliefs lightly’: Innovation and best practice in Prehistoric, Roman and post-Roman ceramic studies in Britain, by Jane Evans, Duncan Brown and David Knight, can be downloaded here.
Insight from Innovation: New Light on Archaeological Ceramics, edited by Emilie Sibbesson, Ben Jervis and Sarah Coxon, is published by Oxbow Books. Click here for more details.