Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 2-1 (May 2010)W.A. van Es; W.J.H. Verwers: Early Medieval settlements along the Rhine: precursors and contemporaries of Dorestad
4 The pottery
4.2 Comparison of the Early Medieval pottery from settlements along the Rhine

4.2.2 Wheel-thrown and handmade pottery from the days of Dorestad

In the overall assemblage of wheel-thrown pottery from Dorestad, the early types are the least well represented (c. 23%), while the cooking pots W IIIA and B and the Badorf ware are roughly balanced and together overwhelmingly predominate. When the pottery from the various excavation areas is considered separately, the proportions of the three categories of wheel-thrown ware are found to fluctuate. We shall not seek to explain these differences in this paper since they do not fundamentally deviate from the overall spectrum. The cooking pots W IIIA and B and the Badorf ware jointly account for three-quarters and locally even more of the wheel-thrown pottery. The fact that these two groups are roughly contemporary and cover about half of Dorestad’s chronology prompts the conclusion that pottery imports significantly increased from the mid-eighth century onwards. This is connected to the transition from the small-scale and scattered production of Merovingian times, of which our ‘early’ group represents the final stage, to production on a more ‘industrial’ scale in the German Vorgebirge.

As might be expected, the pottery assemblage from De Geer, which was part of the Dorestad agglomeration, parallels that of Dorestad. The difference compared to Roomburg and Koudekerk is obvious. There, the early types make up 40% or more of the Dorestad-period assemblage and very clearly outnumber the Badorf ware. The increase of pottery imports in Carolingian times is far less evident at Roomburg and Koudekerk. The difference is mainly due to the Badorf ware, the ‘drinking ware’. For a farming community such as Koudekerk this is only to be expected. At Roomburg, a former vicus beside the Fossa Corbulonis, this is more surprising. However, this pottery assemblage is not very voluminous and from a restricted area and is thus unlikely to be representative of the entire settlement beside (and within?) the castellum. This goes a fortiori for Rijswijk, which shares its high proportion of ‘early’ wares with Roomburg and Koudekerk. At both Roomburg and Koudekerk this ‘early’, i.e. Late Merovingian group is the tail end of a flow of Merovingian imports starting at an earlier date. The contacts pre-existed and did not need to be newly established in the second half of the seventh century. This must also apply to De Geer, but here the ‘early’ wheel-thrown wares have, in manner of speaking, been wholly overtaken by the subsequent spate of imports. The explanation may in part lie in changing relations between different types of settlement. During the heyday of Dorestad an ordinary villa may have had less direct access to the flow of imports monopolised by Dorestad.

Koudekerk and Roomburg have a far greater proportion of handmade pottery than Dorestad and De Geer: almost 50% against less than 20%. This is a Frisian feature. Whereas in the vicinity of Dorestad and upstream the handmade pottery seems to have become virtually extinct in Merovingian times, along the North Sea coast the Kugeltopf vessels continued to compete against the wheel-thrown cooking pots from the German Rhineland throughout the eighth century. The Kugeltopf vessels in Dorestad are presumably Frisian imports. They occur comparatively often in the harbour zone (Hoogstraat 0 to IV). Their high values around the mouth of the Rhine match those in other Frisian regions.

The right-hand half of table 5 (from the ‘Utrecht city’ column) should be regarded as an extra, relating only to the wheel-thrown pottery of the Dorestad period. The city of Utrecht and the coastal provinces from Zeeland right up to the isle of Texel show assemblages that are roughly comparable to that of Dorestad but the proportions of the ‘early’ category are rather low. This could mean that here too the flow of imported, wheel-thrown pottery accelerated during the heyday of Dorestad, i.e. the mid-eighth to the mid-ninth centuries. Yet as long as the Merovingian pottery from the region in question is not better understood, we should refrain from drawing conclusions. For the northern coastal zone (of Friesland and Groningen) and the sandy regions in the provinces of Gelderland and Overijssel, such an increment in pottery imports in Carolingian times is certainly plausible. Merovingian wheel-thrown pottery is rare there. Yet it appears that the western margin of Friesland (Westergo) is an exception, where at any rate locally this pottery does occur in some quantity. Westergo lay closest to the Rhine delta but here too the beginning and volume of Merovingian imports are yet to be determined. Dorestad must have played a major role in the exportation of Carolingian wheel-thrown pottery to the downstream Rhine delta and along the Dutch coast. For the interior, particularly the province of Overijssel, Deventer is a more likely transit port. This trading settlement on the IJssel emerged in the late eighth century, flourished in the ninth century and, in contrast to Dorestad, did survive the Viking raids (Bartels 2006). The wheel-thrown pottery in the province of Overijssel anyhow comes from excavations at Deventer. The assemblage of wheel thrown pottery at Deventer is somewhat ‘younger’ than that of Dorestad since it contains a larger proportion of Badorf ware (Van Es & Verwers 1985).