4.3 The 5th and 6th centuries
In the 5th century, some gradual changes occur. Bases often get somewhat rounded (so-called Wackelboden, e.g. fig. 11, no. 108), profiles become less well-defined. These trends continue into the early Middle Ages. The production and use of decorated pottery diminishes, perhaps already in the second half of the 5th century. Shapes and decoration of pottery in Anglo-Saxon style are becoming increasingly uniform. Late Anglo-Saxon pottery as described by Knol (1993, 54) often is reddish grey, well finished with a dull surface; it has an S-shaped neck, a round or slightly biconical body and often a protruding foot (fig. 2, second row). Decoration consists of a narrow zone of horizontal lines on the shoulder, under which regular vertical lines, long Buckel and elongated impressions have been applied; stamps occur regularly. Radiocarbon dates of this late Anglo-Saxon-style pottery are between 1500 and 1570 BP, that is about the first half of the 6th century (Lanting & Van der Plicht (2010, 142-146). The small number of finds and the dates indicate that this late Anglo-Saxon style pottery was not in use until AD 600, as was suspected by Knol (1993, 54). Around the middle of the 6th century, the use of decorated pottery in Anglo-Saxon style had virtually come to an end.
The handmade pottery of the Merovingian Period, so called Hessens-Schortens ware, is named after two excavations in Niedersachsen (Tischler 1956, 79-87), but it was common in a large part of northwestern Europe (Taayke 1996, V, 180-181; Bärenfänger 2001). Its fabric is the most conspicuous characteristic of Hessens-Schortens ware. It is usually coarse, barely finished pottery, which seems to be made without much care. Well-finished or decorated pots constitute a small minority. Besides the stone-tempered Hessens-Schortens ware, an organically tempered variant, so-called Tritsum-pottery, is sometimes found in the northern Netherlands (Taayke & Knol 1992). Despite its different appearance, it is most likely that Hessens-Schortens and Tritsum pottery developed from the pottery of the 4th and 5th centuries. Characteristics of older G7-pots, narrow-mouthed forms in Anglo-Saxon style and Schalenurnen also occur in Hessens-Schortens pottery. Calibrated radiocarbon-dates of pottery of the Hessens-Schortens family range from the 5th to the 8th century, according to Lanting and Van der Plicht (2010, 151). However, none of their calibrated early dates exclusively fall into the 5th century; they all might as well belong to the 6th century. Moreover, Lanting and Van der Picht (2010, 134-135) equal Hessens-Schortens ware with undecorated pottery in Anglo-Saxon style, which is justifiable if we consider Hessens-Schortens ware as developing from the pottery of the Migration Period. The transition to Hessens-Schortens pottery is gradual; saggy and not so well-finished G7-pots are often surprisingly hard to distinguish from relatively well-finished and thin-walled Hessens-Schortens ware, if at all possible. Nevertheless, Hessens-Schortens pottery sensu stricto may still not occur before the end of the 5th century. Below, only typical coarse, thick-walled kind of pottery will be referred to as Hessens-Schortens ware.
The transition from the carefully made, beautifully finished, expressively decorated pottery of the 4th and 5th centuries to the coarse, rather formless and usually undecorated pottery that is Hessens-Schortens ware, is an interesting phenomenon. Pottery in Anglo-Saxon style seems to be a highlight in design and skill. Why would the potters who were able to make that, put aside their skills and start making the seemingly sloppy shapes of Hessens-Schortens ware? Yet, the transition between the two wares is gradual. At the end of the 5th century, the decorative motifs and the forms of the Anglo-Saxon style apparently were not appreciated anymore. They may have lost their possibly symbolic meaning or just their attractiveness. Young potters no longer used the forms and decorations of the older generation; these became outdated. Moreover, the number of pots per household seems to diminish in the early Middle Ages (Verhoeven 2008, 312). Fancy tableware and drinking vessels apparently were not of handmade pottery anymore. They may have been replaced by imported pottery or different materials such as maple mazers. Handmade pots had become mere practical utensils for the preparation of food.