9.4.3.2 Pottery

Grass-tempered pottery is found in the Norse settled areas of the Highlands, and traditionally dated to this period. Examples are known from Freswick Links (MHG1669), Dunnet (MHG22344; MHG60082), Roberts Haven (MHG1734), Brotchie’s Steading (MHG46260) and Ballachly (MHG1145) in Caithness, as well as Sangobeg (MHG29877) and Borralie (MHG48619) in northwest Sutherland. Grass-tempered pottery is also found in the Northern Isles, and has a wide geographical and temporal range. It is different from the ‘grass-marked’ wares found in the Viking and Norse Hebrides (Gaimster 1995, 136-8; Lane 2007). Grass-tempered pottery was also recovered at Portmahomack, where its distribution was restricted to stratified medieval contexts, despite a strong early medieval presence at the site (Hall 2016). Further detailed investigation of the Highland material is needed, to allow comparisons and dating of the Highland material to that found elsewhere.

There are few sites that allow for comparisons to the growing body of evidence emerging of local ceramic  production from Viking and Norse settlements on the Outer Hebrides (Lane 2007).  Further work on the handmade pottery found in this area is needed, with work to identify typologies and dates. Are archaeologists missing medieval sites because we cannot distinguish pottery in use? Are there any connections elsewhere in the Highlands with the grass-tempered pottery found in Norse areas?

Imports

The catch-all term of green glaze pottery in general refers to pottery from Yorkshire. Examples are found throughout the Highlands, including in the north and west, suggesting wide importation and distribution. Most are known from high-status sites, since these have received the greatest attention, but other findspots include churches, for example at Trumpan Church, Skye (MHG4835). Scottish redware is fairly common, and it is now possible to differentiate place of production using ICPS analysis (see 9.5). For example, some of the Highland examples appear to have come from Moray, although the ICPS analysis of the assemblage from Portmahomack suggested a new fabric may have been produced locally, perhaps close to the Tarbat peninsula (Hall 2016). Ceramic imports from England and the Continent have been identified on a number of sites (MacAskill 1982; Hall 2016; ScARF Medieval section 6.1), but whether direct or indirect is difficult to say.  Pottery assemblages recovered from Eilean Donan and Portmahomack were dominated by Scottish Redware, although Continental imports feature increasingly into the 15th and 16th centuries (Hall forthcoming; Hall 2016; Case Study Eilean Donan Castle; Case Study Portmahomack). Other types of pottery can be analysed with ICPS, and this provides a possibility to re-examine some of the assemblages in museums.

A 15th century green glazed jug from Lochindorb Castle. ©Inverness Museum and Art Gallery

 

Case Study: Eilean Donan Castle

Case Study: Portmahomack

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