Evidence of Roman Pottery Production Site Found in Suffolk

Lavenham in Suffolk is renowned as one of the most-well-preserved medieval towns in Britain, but has provided scant evidence for Roman archaeology with the exception of a single vicar’s account of evidence for a significant building in the late 19th century. However, archaeological investigation in advance of a development for Marden Homes at Lavenham, recorded unexpected evidence for Roman industry. The trial-trench evaluation, followed by an open area excavation by our archaeologists recorded remains not only to support this historic assertion, but also to deliver the project without undue delay and in accordance with the planning officers for the county.

The highlight of the archaeological remains were three kilns and an oven associated with early Roman pottery production. One of the kilns was quite spectacular in that it contained a failed load of pottery that had been abandoned at the time, by a potter who clearly had a catastrophically bad day at the office. In situ recording of the pottery vessels identified a minimum of 116 vessels, including jars, bowls, beakers and lids that would have been primarily produced for a local estate or villa, but may also have produced a surplus to trade along the Roman road between the urban centres of Long Melford and Pakenham (and onwards to Colchester). The exceptional level of preservation allowed the arrangement of vessels within the kiln to be identified, as well as structural components and the use of chaff as fuel, further informing our understanding of finely-tuned Roman technology, whose lineage would still be recognised by potters today.

A full archive report has since been deposited with the Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, and is featured on their blog. An article on the site is in press with the Journal of Roman Pottery Studies, an academic peer-reviewed journal of the highest quality.

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