Mystery of pots from 1000AD

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The story behind historic pots dating back more than a millennium will be explored at a talk next Thursday.

Thousands of smithereens of the pottery were unearthed during excavations of a kiln near Box Lane in Pontefract nearly a decade ago.

And after painstaking reconstruction work to piece the fragments back together, the pots are now on display at Pontefract Museum.

Dr Janet McNaught and her husband Robert, who both have a long-term interest in archaeology and are members of the Pontefract and District Archaeological Society and the Friends of Pontefract Castle, took part in a community project to examine and rebuild the pots, overseen by Wakefield Council’s archaeology team and funded by English Heritage.

Dr McNaught said: “When we did formal readings on this find, they came back indicating the pottery was from before the Norman Conquest and before Pontefract Castle was built.

“The precise dating is difficult but the readings date the pottery to around 1,000AD.

“At that point in time, we were coming to the end of the Anglo Saxon period.

“Previous excavations, and archaeological and historical research, tells us that there was a church nearby during this time and that there were people called burgesses who owned and farmed land.

“It is an area that was very active and the potters would not have been there if they could not actually sell their pottery on to anyone.

“It’s a huge amount of pottery. But what we don’t understand is why it was all was smashed up inside the kiln and left, and that’s something we may never know.

“Did they find another site with better clay? It makes you think that somewhere nearby, there could be another kiln.”

The pottery is known locally as Tanshelf Ware, named after the area in which it was discovered.

Dr McNaught, who has also been involved in a dig at Hadrian’s Wall, said: “Pottery similar to this has been found previously in Stamford, Lincolnshire.

“It was named Stamford Ware because there wasn’t any of it anywhere else.

“Now that we have found a hoard as big as this here, we are trying to claim it as ours.

“It may be that actually the original find was not Stamford Ware but was actually made in Pontefract.

“With the name Tanshelf Ware, we are trying to say that this pottery could be ours.

“We are saying look, we have got piles of this pottery here in Pontefract - maybe we need to re-look at some of the previous historic finds.”