Journal of Archaeology in the Low Countries 4-2 (April 2013)Annet Nieuwhof: Anglo-Saxon immigration or continuity? Ezinge and the coastal area of the northern Netherlands in the Migration Period.

4. Pottery types and pottery dates

The pottery of this period in the northern-Netherlands and the coastal area of Niedersachsen is largely handmade. In most settlements of the Roman Iron Age as well as the early Middle Ages, only a very small portion of the total pottery assemblage consists of imported, wheel-thrown pottery.[4] There is no well-defined typochronology for the pottery from the northern Netherlands of the 4th and 5th centuries as there is for earlier handmade pottery in this region. The work of Taayke (1996), which has made pottery research of earlier material from the northern Netherlands into a rewarding line of research, does not include ‘Anglo-Saxon’ pottery. To understand and interpret the finds, we cannot do without at least a provisional typochronology for this period. The overview of types presented below consists of types that were used as from the late Roman Iron Age, which were described by Taayke (1996), supplemented by types described by Schmid (2006) in his publication on the pottery from the Feddersen Wierde. Pottery development will be followed into the 6th century; then the pottery in Anglo-Saxon style made way for early-medieval, so-called Hessens-Schortens ware. An overview of pottery types from the 3rd, 4th and 5t centuries is represented in fig. 2.

The use of the designation Anglo-Saxon for this pottery suggests a relation between pottery style and ethnic identity, which is better avoided. In the following, the pottery and decoration that used to be called Anglo-Saxon will be referred to as pottery and decoration in Anglo-Saxon style (abbreviated AS), rather than as Anglo-Saxon pottery. The combination of Anglo and Saxon is maintained, because without further study, it is hard to distinguish separate Anglian and Saxon styles.[5]

4.1 The 3rd century

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During the 3rd century AD, typical ’Frisian’ characteristics such as decorated rims (so-called Wellenrand-pots), which had been part of the pottery of the northern-Netherlands since the early pre-Roman Iron Age, disappeared from the repertoire (Taayke 1996, V, 179). The so-called Driesum style (Taayke 1996, V, 180) developed during this period (fig. 2, left column). In Friesland, this style represents the final phase of pottery development. The Driesum-style still has the angular shapes of the middle-Roman Iron Age, but rims get longer and thinner, carinated walls get more rounded. Wide-mouthed as well as narrow-mouthed pots (type Ge6), the latter in smaller numbers, occur. Besides large pots, there are well-finished, funnel-shaped beakers and miniature versions of Ge6 (K6). In northern Drenthe, pots in Driesum-style were used well into the 4th century.


Figure 2 Overview of pottery types from the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries in the northern Netherlands and northwestern Germany; based on Taayke 1996 , Plettke 1921 and Schmid 2006 . AS: pottery in Anglo-Saxon style; Dr.: types from the typology of northern Drenthe ( Taayke 1996 , II); Gr.: types from the typology of central Groningen ( Taayke 1996 , III). (Drawing: author).

4.2 The 4th and 5th centuries

In the typology of central Groningen, Driesum style pottery is followed by two types: small pots of type K7 and large pots of type G7.[6] Both types are defined on the basis of only a small number of finds. These types are more common in northern Drenthe, where a continuous development of pottery into the 4th and 5th centuries can be recognized (Taayke 1996, V, 180).[7] Together with bowls and dishes, these forms can be considered the indigenous pottery of this period in the northern Netherlands.

Pottery in Anglo-Saxon style is defined here as pottery that comes from, or is inspired by contacts with, the Anglo-Saxon home area. This pottery comprises specific forms such as Schalenurnen and so-called Plettke-types (see below), both usually decorated in Anglo-Saxon style. Decoration in Anglo-Saxon style can also be applied to indigenous forms. Shapes from this period are shown in the right column of fig. 2.

Large pots

The large, indigenous pots from this period belong to type Dr. G7 (Taayke 1996, II, 25-30 and 57-58). This type consists of well-finished, usually stone-tempered, wide-mouthed pots with more or less S-shaped profiles. As far as known, bases are flat and rather wide. The lower half of the pots is often roughened with a finely textured, coarse slip. G7-pots are usually not decorated, but Anglo-Saxon style motifs do occur. Taayke distinguishes four subtypes, Dr. G7a, -b, -c and -d. They are dated to the 4th as well as the 5th centuries, Dr. G7c into the 6th century (Taayke 1996, II, 58).

Pottery from this period from German cemeteries and settlements was described by Plettke, as early as 1921. Just like the G7-types of the northern Netherlands, S-shaped profiles developed here from the more angular profiles of the Roman Iron Age in the 4th century. In Plettke’s typology, which is still widely used in the Netherlands, these new, wide-mouthed forms are called A4, A5 and A8. This pottery is often, but not always decorated. The difference between various wide-mouthed Plettke-types is not very well defined. As a group, they fall under the definition of G7-pottery (Taayke 1996, II, 58; Schmid 2006, 64). Schmid dates them to the 4th and 5th centuries.

Narrow-mouthed types with round (Plettke types A6 and B2) or biconical (A7) wall profiles develop from this wide-mouthed pottery (Schmid 2006, 63). Schmid dates them to the late 4th century, biconical variants no earlier than the 5th century. Another narrow-mouthed type, 4th century-type ‘Cuxhaven-Galgenberg’, developed from earlier ‘Töpfe der Westerwanna-Typ’ (Schmid 2006, 64), Taayke’s type Ge6, one of the Driesum-style types.


Dr. K4/Gr. K7 (Taayke 1996, II, 39 and 61; III, 34 and 55) comprises well finished, wide-mouthed, shouldered beakers. The neck is concave or straight, the rim is usually rounded and sometimes thickened. Bases can be flat or raised and protruding. Decorated and undecorated beakers occur; decoration is often found on or under the shoulder, or on the lower, narrow part of the beaker above the foot. Decoration can be in the rather formal style of the middle Roman Iron Age or in the more expressive, Anglo-Saxon style. The type resembles the Trichterpokale of the Feddersen Wierde (Schmid 2006, Taf. 47, 69 and 70). In northern Drenthe, four subtypes are distinguished (Taayke 1996, II; V, Abb. 10). K4a is dated to the late 3rd and the 4th centuries. K4b is inspired by the Rhein-Weser-Germanisches type II as defined by Von Uslar (1938) and dated to the 3rd and 4th centuries (Taayke 1996, II, 61). K4c is dated from the late 3rd until the 5th century. K4d is a younger subtype, dated to the 4th and 5th centuries.

Bowls and dishes

In the middle of the 3rd century, bowls with an inward curving rim appeared in northern Drenthe as well as Groningen (Dr. S5/Gr. S4). Bowls are sometimes decorated or roughened, and may have small knob handles. In northern Drenthe, wide, low dishes with a vertical or slanting wall were in use besides bowls (Dr. S4). Both dishes and bowls were produced until well into the early Middle Ages. Fabric and finishing are the main characteristics that enable dating: through the years, fabrics became coarser (Taayke 1996, II, 62-63).


The wide-mouthed, carinated dishes of this period are known by their German name Schalenurnen. The term Schalenurne is used here for want of good alternatives; they were, however, not necessarily used as urns. Schmid (2006, 59) more neutrally calls them schalenförmige Gefäße. Schalenurnen are typical of the Anglo-Saxon style. Schmid (2006, 59-60) describes three variants. Variants 1 and 2, which are difficult to distinguish, are relatively high, cylindrical pots with a deep carination; variant 3 is wider and has a clearly convex and relatively high lower wall. Most Schalenurnen are decorated. Decoration is located on the shoulder and the wall above it, often almost up to the rim. Schalenurnen are dated from the 4th until the second half of the 5th century by Schmid (2006, 62-63).


A large percentage of the pottery of this period is decorated. The decoration in Anglo-Saxon style consists of horizontal, vertical, slanting and curved grooves, chevrons, horizontal ridges, often with regular impressions, thickened areas, bumps (so-called Buckel), rosettes, stamps, and small or large, round or oval impressions. Besides these common motifs, a large number of rarer decorative elements occur, which might have been inspired by personal preferences of the potter or that possibly had a symbolic meaning. An example is the cruciform, linear impression that sometimes can be found on the base of pots. This motif already occurs on pottery centuries before the Christianisation of north-western Europe and probably has a non-Christian symbolic meaning. Not only rare motifs, but also the more common elements of the Anglo-Saxon style may have had a symbolic meaning for those who made and used it. To what extent decorative motifs can be used to date pottery is not clear.


Dates as presented above are based on associations of pottery types and on associations with other dated objects. They are rather wide, usually spanning two centuries. A number of new radiocarbon dates of pottery in Anglo-Saxon style was provided by Lanting and Van der Plicht (2010, 142; 2012 , fig. 3). These dates are no less wide than the archaeological dates, but they can be used to verify them. The new, calibrated dates mainly fall in the 5th century, some into the early 6th century; most of these dates apply to pottery from the coastal area. The earliest radiocarbon-dated pots in Anglo-Saxon style are from the 4th century (Lanting & Van der Plicht 2010, 142ff; 2012, fig. 3). These early dates belong to the four dated Schalenurnen and to two round, narrow-mouthed pots in Anglo-Saxon style from the small cemeteries near Midlaren-De Bloemert. Radiocarbon dates confirm the archaeological dates of pottery in Anglo-Saxon style. Schalenurnen seem to occur especially in the 4th century and to end already in the early 5th century AD, but the number of dates is rather small.

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).[8] 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,[9] 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.[10] Handmade pots had become mere practical utensils for the preparation of food.