Links to Late Antiquity

Links to Late Antiquity: Understanding Contacts on the Western Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD

Links to Late Antiquity: Understanding Contacts on the Western Seaboard in the 5th to 7th Centuries AD

Maria Duggan

School of History, Classics and Archaeology, Newcastle University

Supervision team: Prof. Sam Turner, Dr Mark Jackson and Dr James Gerrard

My AHRC-funded PhD project concerns Late Roman and early medieval pottery imported to sites of post-Roman date in Britain, Ireland and on the Atlantic seaboard. Since the 1950s the presence of imported pottery at sites in western Britain and Ireland has used to indicate some degree of contact between post-Roman Britain and the Byzantine world. The pottery includes amphorae from North Africa and the East Mediterranean (South Turkey and the Aegean) which are generally thought to have transported wine or olive oil, as well as fine, red-slipped tablewares.

This study will offer a new approach to this material by comparing ceramic assemblages from British sites held in museum collections with pottery recently identified from sites along the Atlantic Seaboard. My thesis will consider whether the imported pottery reflects previously unidentified networks of trade or exchange between western Britain and communities in France, Spain and Portugal in Late Antiquity.

In April 2012 I carried out a research trip to study imported pottery held in Devon and viewed the post-Roman pottery from High Peak, Sidmouth held at RAMM. The material from High Peak is a hugely important collection, gathered over last 150 years and reflecting the long history of research associated with these artefacts. Viewing this material in person at an early stage in my research was extremely useful for drawing comparisons with the same types of pottery identified at Bordeaux and various sites in Galicia, Spain. This inspection was additionally conducted for comparative purposes as part of the assessment of pottery recovered at Mothecombe in South Devon, recently published in the Archaeological Journal.

Agate A, Duggan M, Roskams S, Turner S. Early Medieval Settlement at Mothecombe, Devon: The Interaction of Local, Regional and Long-Distance Dynamics. Archaeological Journal, 2012, 169, 343-394.

Further excavation work was carried out at High Peak, Sidmouth by AC archaeology in the summer of 2012, which produced more sherds of pottery. I was commissioned, as part of the appraisal of these finds to carry out a re-assessment of the entire High Peak assemblage. This involved another research visit to RAMM, facilitated by Jenny Durrant and Tom Cadbury, whose comprehensive knowledge of the assemblage and the complex history of its recovery and acquisition hugely aided my research. The report on the recent excavations is in preparation.

Rainbird, P, Hughes, S, Allen, M J, Duggan, M, Payne, N, Quinnell, H, Simmons, S and Taylor,  R, in preparation. Excavations at the Early Neolithic and Post-Roman Site of High Peak Camp, Otterton, East Devon

A more detailed report on the High Peak pottery assemblage will follow and will also form part of my final thesis.

High Peak pottery wrapper