The Work

Specialist report 2004 - Report on the Pottery

Posted by steven on 01/05/2005 at 09:50 PM

High Pasture: Report on the Pottery

Ann MacSween - April 2005

Description

76 sherds representing an estimated 51 vessels were recovered from the preliminary excavations at High Pasture. The sherds are catalogued as a spreadsheet and the diagnostic sherds are also described in full.

The majority of sherds are undiagnostic body sherds and there are also a number of small rim sherds for which the angle of the rim could not be determined. A number of rims sherds were large enough to give an indication of profile – HP 46, 48 & 49 (cont 1, Z4) which is tapered with an inverted profile; HP 30 (cont 1, Z3) which is from a necked vessel; HP 257 (cont 1, Z4) again from a necked vessel; HP 258 (Z4) which is an everted rim from a globular or round-shouldered vessel; HP 224 which is a plain rim from a bucket-shaped vessel; an unnumbered sherd which is a tapered rim, again from a bucket-shaped vessel; and HP 240 which is a flat-rimmed vessel. 

Decoration was noted on two vessels – HP 258 has an incised cordon 50mm below the neck of the vessel; and HP 257 has incisions around the rim and finer incisions in the interior of the vessel. Surface finish was usually no more than a wet-hand smoothing with only one vessel (HP 56) having been burnished. Two vessels were surface-combed – HP 163 and the unnumbered vessel with the tapered rim.

The fabrics are all fairly similar – sandy or fine sandy clays with a low percentage of rock fragments and often an organic component. One vessel – the flat-rimmed vessel HP 240 – is notably different, having around 70% of black angular fragments. Most of the vessels had sooting or residue on at least one surface, indicating their use as cooking vessels.

Discussion

Comments on the assemblage will at this stage be kept to general observations. The first observation is that apart from HP 240 there is very little variation in terms of fabric across the assemblage, so the majority of sherds could be similar in age. HP 240 is, however, so different in terms of fabric and profile that it is probable that it is chronologically or functionally distinct from the rest of the assemblage. This indicates the potential for the site to produce a pottery sequence with diagnostic fabric types. 

Dating of the pottery by comparison with other sites is problematic as very few dates have been recovered for pottery from sites on Skye and there is as yet uncertainty as to how much variation in the sequences there is between, for example, Skye and the Western Isles – it is by no means certain that the pottery sequences for all the islands off the west coast of Scotland followed the same sequence at the same time. A broad mid Iron Age date (ie second half of the first millennium BC) is, however, suggested by the vessel with the incised cordon (see, for example, Campbell 2002). The importance of obtaining dates which date the pottery rather than the structural phases of a site has been argued previously (MacSween 2002) and should be considered at High Pasture if suitable material for dating survives in secure contexts with pottery.

References

Campbell, E 2002 ‘The Western Isles pottery sequence’, in Ballin Smith, B & Banks, I (eds), In the Shadow of the Brochs, Stroud, 139-44. 

MacSween, A 2002 ‘Dun Beag and the role of pottery in interpretations of the Hebridean Iron Age’ in Ballin Smith, B & Banks, I (eds), In the Shadow of the Brochs, Stroud, 145-52.

Find HP 258 from High Pasture Cave

Catalogue

Context 009; Tr 1; HP0240
Flat-rimmed vessel, the excess lipped to the exterior, from a coil-constructed vessel (N-shaped junctions). The fabric is fine sandy clay with c70% of black angular fragments up to 10mm long which has fired hard and is grey with brown surfaces. Large rock fragments protrude through the smoothed exterior surface. There is sooting on the interior surface and light sooting on the exterior.
Th 8mm; Dia 230mm; Wt 62g

Context 001; Z4; HP0046, HP0059 & HP0048
Tapered rim with an inverted profile from a coil-constructed vessel (N-shaped junctions). The fabric is fine sandy clay with c10% of angular rock fragments up to 2mm long which has fired soft and is grey with red surfaces. Both surfaces are sooted.
Th 6mm; Dia 140mm; Wt 39g

Context 001; Z3; HP0030
Plain rim from a necked vessel. The fabric is fine sandy clay with c5% of small rock fragments and organics which has fired hard and is grey with red margins.
Th 5mm; Dia 180mm; Wt 7g

Context 001; Z4; HP0257
Plain rim from a necked vessel. The fabric is fine sandy clay with c5% of small rock fragments and organics which has fired hard and is grey with red margins. There are oblique incised lines c8mm apart in the interior, and thicker incisions c6mm apart around the lip of the vessel.
Th 5mm; Wt 6g

Context 004; Tr 1; HP0224
Plain rim from a coil-constructed vessel. The fabric is fine clay with c10% of rock fragments up to 7mm long and organics which has fired hard and is grey with red margins. The exterior is smoothed – finger-tip smoothing.
Th 10mm; Dia 110mm; Wt 104g (see spreadsheet for list of sherds from this vessel)

The following sherds are from disturbed deposits – they are not listed on the spreadsheet.

Bone passage, zone 4; HP0258 (29g sherd)
Others are u/s – 22g, 30g (rim), 10g (rim), 29g and abraded 1g, 5g, 9g, 11g (x3), 13g
Everted rim from a vessel decorated with an incised applied cordon 50mm below the point of inflection of the rim and body. From a coil-constructed vessel. The cordon is 10mm wide and the incisions are 2mm wide and c10mm apart. The fabric is fine sandy clay with c5% of rock fragments which has fired hard and is grey with red surfaces. The exterior surface is sooted.
Th 6mm

Zone 4, disturbed deposits
Flat base with angled walls. The fabric is sandy clay with c10% of white angular rock fragments up to 6mm long which has fired hard and is grey with brown surfaces.
Base 26g; Th 8mm
Body 10g; Th 10mm

Zone 4; disturbed deposits
Slightly tapered rim. The fabric is fine sandy clay with c20% of small rock fragments and organics which has fired hard and is grey with red margins. The exterior surface is combed and both surfaces are sooted. Fresh.
Th 10mm; Dia 150mm; Wt 146g


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