Pottery is an important source of evidence for medieval Perth and Kinross. It is found in abundance in urban areas and is also well-represented on many rural sites. Fieldwalking has been relatively productive of medieval pottery, probably having been spread on the fields with other waste such as manure.
At the beginning of the medieval period Perth and Kinross was heavily dependent on imported pottery from England and Continental Europe. A local redware industry appears to have developed in the 12th century. However, imports remained significant for some time. Many of the large assemblages of medieval ceramics from Perth and Kinross have been intensively studied, and provide invaluable insights into local and international trade, as well as often giving evidence of local industries (D Hall 1996; 1998; M Hall et al 2012). Scientific techniques form an important part of research into medieval ceramics and have been used on many of the finds from Perth and Kinross. For example, ICPMS analysis of clay fabrics has helped identify probable clay sources, while radiocarbon dating has been used on organic residues on sherds (M Hall et al 2005).
There are currently no known ceramic kiln sites in Perth and Kinross, although scientific analysis of ceramics indicate that they must have existed in the area (Haggarty et al 2011). It has been argued that the religious orders may have helped establish the local ceramic industry, partly through their system of granges (D Hall 2006a). Ceramic production would leave significant remains with wasters and kiln furniture tending not to travel far. Targeted fieldwalking guided by clay sourcing and supplemented by geophysical survey could be very productive, and the Carse of Gowrie, with its known clay sources, would be a promising area for this type of investigation (D Hall pers comm). A fieldwalkers’ guide to pottery, kiln waste and kiln furniture could be of great assistance in the ongoing search for ceramic production sites.
The quantity of medieval pottery excavated in Perth and Kinross poses significant challenges regarding storage and preservation. Excavations can produce literally tonnes of ceramics. Preservation of all these items would overwhelm existing museum storage. A process of selection is therefore inevitable. However, historic assemblages of pottery have been found to produce important data and it is likely that as scientific techniques develop even more information will be discoverable from ceramics. There is therefore a need for informed conversations about priorities for preservation and storage, and the relationship with existing legal mechanisms for allocating assemblages.