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Pottery in Britain 4000BC to AD1900: A Guide to Identifying Potsherds [Illustrated] [Paperback]

Lloyd Laing , Jennifer Laing , Greg Payne
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 April 2003
Pottery in Britain 4000BC to AD1900 by Lloyd Laing This book aims to provide an introductory guide to identifying some of the basic types of pottery that may be found by accident, in systematic fieldwalking, and in archaeological excavation. Clay is an exceptionally versatile material. It can be made into many useful and beautiful objects, decorated in a splendid variety of ways, and, if exposed to high temperatures, made into pottery. Both rich and poor have used pottery since the Stone Age, so the way the craft developed gives unusually clear insights into intimate details of lifestyle and outlooks in even remote periods. It has been said that "archaeology is built on a foundation of potsherds". Some archaeological sites have produced over a million sherds, so, as a result of several centuries of highly complex logical reasoning, scientific analysis and cross-referencing with other material, pottery has become invaluable for making inferences about ancient societies. Although pottery is easily broken, the individual sherds are remarkably resilient. Sherds are therefore the most frequent types of find on archaeological sites and their presence in the soil can lead to the discovery of new sites. While many people can distinguish porcelain from earthenware, not everyone can tell the difference between stoneware and tin glaze or a Bronze Age urn from a modern flowerpot. Many sites, seen in retrospect as important, have been destroyed or overlooked because pottery lying on the surface was not recognised for what it was. A general knowledge of ancient pottery is not difficult to acquire, although, as in many other walks of life, the study is very complex on a professional level. Since whole pots are very rare finds the emphasis is on sherds rather than museum or collectors' pieces. For reasons of space it has been impossible to do more than outline the main types (out of many thousands) of pottery vessel that might be found. Local and national museums and art galleries are the first places to visit in order to become familiar with pottery in particular areas. The book deals mostly with pottery made in Britain, though at all times it must be borne in mind that any pottery found could have come from any period or any location in the world. As a rule of thumb, lowland areas have tended to produce more ancient pottery than highland, presumably due to a combination of lifestyle and availability of raw materials. The book contains 178 illustrations, mainly in colour, and is divided into the following sections: The potter's craft • The study of pottery • Prehistoric pottery- the Neolithic Period circa 4000-2000 BC • The Bronze Age circa 2000-700 BC • The Iron Age circa 700/600 BC-43 AD • The Iron Age circa 700/600 BC-43 AD • The Dark Ages & Early Medieval Period • The Medieval Period - 11th-15th Centuries • The 16th & 17th Centuries • The 18th & 19th Centuries • Glossary of terminology. Over 100 pages (250mm x19!

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Pottery in Britain 4000BC to AD1900: A Guide to Identifying Potsherds + Pottery in Roman Britain (Shire Archaeology)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Greenlight Publishing (18 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1897738145
  • ISBN-13: 978-1897738146
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 25 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 89,096 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Pottery In Britain 4,000 BC to AD 1900 by Lloyd Laing, senior lecturer in archaeology at Nottingham University, is a very welcome addition to the existing literature on ceramics, providing a concise history of the development of pottery techniques and styles from Neolithic times to the Victorian era. Particularly useful for identification is the author s breakdown of the factors to consider in recognising an individual potsherd - fabric, method of production, decoration, location, and shape or form. Archaeologists and metal detectorists will almost always find their clues to potential sites in the guise of potsherds and the author explains how these get into the ground in the first place. This is virtually a complete course in the art of identification of pottery. Although on a professional level the study of pottery is a very complex one, Lloyd Laing makes it possible for the amateur to achieve a good working knowledge of the subject. This reviewer, for one, wishes he had had the benefit of the author s book when starting out on pottery finds. The Glossary, Bibliography and Index are excellent. Valuable practical advice is provided on the etiquette of potsherd hunting and gathering, together with notes on the equipment and health precautions (tetanus injections and first aid kit) to be taken. The many illustrations and photographs in colour are first class. For the elegant clarity and concision of its presentation, Pottery in Britain would be hard to beat and after you have read it, it is safe to say that you will never again look upon a potsherd in the same light. Well done, Lloyd Laing. --Publisher

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential book of pottery identification 28 Jan 2010
By D. M. Farmbrough VINE VOICE
Verified Purchase
Unless you're an expert, identifying pottery finds in archaeology can be very difficult indeed, once you get beyond four or five basic types. I bought this book because I was having trouble identifying some finds without expert help, and I must say it's been useful. There is no internet resource that has enough information and pictures to enable proper identification, and no currently published book has enough information. The book is well-written, excellently photographed, and fits my needs perfectly.

I do not know whether professional archaeologists would need such a book, but it is very good for amateurs and local historical societies who need to know why that piece of pottery found in the churchyard is glazed only on one side, or where that shard with the green glaze can have originate.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful to an extent 5 July 2009
As an archaeologist, I found this book quite useful for aiding the general identification of the most common forms of Roman and Medieval pottery and it does make references to some regional wares as well. However, the major disadvantage is that although it has some, there are nowhere near enough colour photographs of the fabric of the pottery to make it reliable for the non expert.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book for beginners only. 18 Nov 2008
I found this book a bit basic. There are too many sketches and nowhere enough decent photos of actual sherds, especially from the Prehistoric period that I'm most interested in. Little discussion of the different types and fabrics - the puzzle of grass tempered ware for instance is skated right over. Alex Gibsons book - "Prehistoric Pottery of Britain and Ireland" - that I also bought is much more satisfying (and cheaper too!).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable book to own 11 Jun 2008
For me, this book has been invaluable and has helped me to identify several sherds I have found over the years. Its well illustrated and the author is obviously very knowledgeable on the subject.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent guide to Pottery in Britain 26 Mar 2009
This is a great book for the amateur and professional enthusiast. The illustrations and photographs are an excellent source of reference, and the author clearly shows their passion through historical references and contexts. This book takes you through the history and method of pottery making over a 6000 year period, and helps you to identify you pottery 'finds'. I have been looking for a book like this for a long time and highly recommend it to all with the habit of looking at the ground and wondering how old is that bit of muddy pot and who might have used it?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Somewhat disappointed with this book. I was hoping for more of a reference material but found it shallow and lacking in detail. Also a number of the photographs were slightly out of focus. Definately not a book for a serious student or field worker.
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