On Wednesday (8th February), two small flint scrapers were brought back to the Trust’s HQ from site. We are currently conducting a large area excavation on a rural site near Colchester. The two flint scrapers derive from a pit and they are very interesting. The site has also produced fragments of one or more pottery vessels of prehistoric Fengate Ware, which is a style or sub-type of Peterborough Ware. The two flint scrapers date to the Neolithic period. They are both of the ‘horseshoe’ type and are typical of the Neolithic period. The scrapers are small and would have been used to scrape hides or animal bones. Trust pottery specialist Steve Benfield has identified the pottery fragments which also date to the Neolithic period, possibly the Middle Neolithic period. He also consulted prehistoric pottery expert Nigel Brown about the pottery. Steve dates the fragments of Fengate Ware to about 3,300-2,700 BC. Fragments of Fengate Ware pottery have been found on other sites in Britain in association with evidence of flint-knapping.
The Fengate Ware pottery fragments are very interesting. They include three joining fragments from the rim of one vessel, and these show the flint-tempered fabric and highly decorated exterior which are typical of Peterborough Ware. The impressed decoration would have been created by someone using an implement like a twig and it also, usually, includes fingertip impressions. The three fragments derive from a vessel which included a distinctive ‘collar’ and decorated rim edge: it is the ‘collar’ which identifies this as Fengate Ware. One of the fragments also includes a fingertip impression. (Fengate is an area in Peterborough and it is where this type of pottery was first discovered.) The British Museum in London holds a complete (reconstructed) Fengate Ware bowl: you can see a photo. of this online at www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details.aspx?objectId=1487089&partId=1 . There is an item on Peterborough Ware in this blog.
Fengate Ware pottery is relatively uncommon in Essex so these fragments are a great find. Fengate Ware pottery has been found on sites in the Thames Valley and one rim sherd was found at Springfield in Essex (Essex is, of course, defined by the River Thames and Thames Estuary). One Fengate Ware rim sherd has also been recovered at Farnham and some has been found at Felixstowe Ferry, both sites being in coastal Suffolk. Fengate Ware pottery has been found in funerary contexts and in association with the blocking of earlier cursus monuments (see Prehistoric Britain by Timothy Darvill (1987)). A cursus was a large Neolithic monumental structure and there are about 200 cursus sites in Britain. They were, apparently, built in about 3,400-3,000 BC and each one consisted of two parallel linear ditches with internal banks, but which were later blocked at both ends. Cursus monuments are among the oldest monumental structures in Britain. Stonehenge has produced fragments representing 52 Peterborough Ware pottery vessels, with one rim of Fengate Ware pottery from the Stonehenge cursus, which pre-dates the standing stones. The rim sherd from Springfield also derives from the cursus.
The excavation is being supervised by Trust archaeologist Ben Holloway and undertaken by the Trust’s excavation team.
The images show the two flint scrapers; the worked edge of one of the scrapers in detail; the three joining fragments of the Fengate Ware pottery; a fingertip impression on one of the fragments; the decorated rim edge in detail; and a drawing of a Fengate Ware vessel (from The West Kennet long barrow – excavations 1955-56 by S Piggott (1962), and re-published in Prehistoric pottery – Britain and Ireland by A Gibson (2002)); and a site photo. . [Images to follow.]