Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2014 dig

The Fulford Tapestry

Ceramic collection

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The systematic collection of ceramic material was not a part of the project plan.  However, much material was assembled as volunteers such as locals, young children and passing tourists picked up many items of interest.  Fortunately, volunteers in two key areas did a systematic collection.  And this has proved very useful.

The rationale for not collecting pottery was based on the notion that the battle was fought with iron weapons, and there was no reason to suspect that smashed pots or broken teacups was relevant to a study of the battle. This sounded witty when first uttered, but the failure to collect ceramic material on a systematic basis was a mistake. A formal sample should have been taken from each area.  Happily, by ignoring the instructions given to them, a very representative sample from each of the areas where metal detecting was carried out has been assembled.  What follows is a summary of the material.

Area one & two

A small assemblage of white and glazed material, a worked flint and what looks like some metalworking slag.

Area three & eleven

This yielded a substantial quantity of middle mediaeval and late medieval pottery. The earliest find was dated by experts to the late 12th century, but the overwhelming majority was from the 14th century. This dates it to the time of the settlement that became known as Water Fulford and therefore some time after the battle. The adjacent area, known as area 11, was not searched for another two years and this yielded a very limited quantity of red and white and glazed material and had none of the domestic pottery matching that found in area three, which lay just the other side of a path. 

This is consistent with the documentary evidence cited by MAP in a landscape study which showed that Water Fulford only developed to the north of the road that bisected this small settlement. This area is extremely rich in surface material, and merits a formal investigation.

Area four

This area had not been ploughed for many years, and very limited quantities of pottery were recovered.  A few samples of red and white glazed ware were collected.  This lack of ceramic material in unploughed areas was matched by the pattern on Walmgate Stray and area 12.  All the other areas had been in arable use.

Area five

This area yielded modern pottery, but there were some flints and bone amongst the collection. Compared with other areas, area five had very little glass and very few fragments of clay smoking pipes.  The poor collection might reflect the failure to organise any field walking in this area.

Area eight

This area was of interest, as it was an extension of a known Roman road.  Oyster shells, slate, some glass and a carved stone were found, but what distinguished this area was the quantity of flat limestone stones that were recovered.  They were identified by several local archaeologists as typical of paving material imported during the Roman occupation to pave roads. It proved impossible to find a layer of these stones or any particular concentration.  Such a layer might have helped to identify the line of any road.

Area nine

This area was rich in glazed material and was notable for the lack of modern ceramic found in this area.  Though a few smoking pipes were found, there was little glass and no flint fragments were found. The latter is particularly surprising, as a walker came and showed an almost perfect flint arrow that they had found on the surface.

Area 10

This was one of the areas that were systematically surveyed. A full range of materials was found, including shells and animal bones. There were many different sorts of glass, several pieces of flint, along with a great number of clay pipe fragments.  However this was the only area to yield some black ceramic material. The part-glazed surfaces support the idea that some high-temperature process was being conducted in the area to cause this darkening and the glaze fusion on the surface.

Area 12

This yielded only modern material, but since the surface is on the flood plain and has not been ploughed for many years it is not surprising that no older material was found.

Walmgate Stray

Only one piece of modern ceramic material was recovered by the 18 detectorists and the soil survey team that was operating.  While the whole area was covered in recreational and military metal debris, ceramic material was notable by its absence. Some blue, glass slag was found near the road access and this was believed to have been used as paving.

Ceramic Summary

It would be lovely if a model of agricultural activity could be developed, based around the number of clay pipe fragments found or the history of occupation calibrated by the number of animal bones or oyster shells found. Sadly, the material does not allow this. The widespread discovery of unglazed red and white pottery would seem to indicate that ceramic material is very mobile.  Only in area three was there an overwhelming quantity of domestic ceramics.  The dating of this material to the centuries after the battle was perhaps the most important contribution that the ceramic material made to the work of this project. The ceramic material has also helped to identify the land use of the various areas and provided some important corroboration for the metalworking interpretation provided for the Fulford landscape.

 

 

There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Field, flood-plane housing estate. Visiting Fulford        Map York

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

There is a blog covering these sites where you can leave questions and make comments.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com

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