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AMONG ANCIENT POTTERY.
THE pottery of the earliest period of English history—the Celtic-is of coarse material and rude character, but some of the forms, although simple, are elegant. The pottery of this period, for which we are entirely indebted to the burial mounds, may be divided into the following classes, viz.1. Sepulchral or Cinerary Urns, which have been made for and have contained, or been inverted over, calcined human bones; 2. Drinking Cups, which are supposed to have contained some liquid to be placed with the dead body; 3. Food Vessels (so called), which are supposed to have contained an offering of food, and are more usually found with unburnt bodies than along with interments by cremation ; 4. Immolation Urns (erroneously, for want of more knowledge of their use, named Incense Cups by Sir R. Colt Hoare), which are very small vessels, found only with burnt bones (and usually also containing them), placed in the mouths of, or close by, the large cinerary urns. These latter I believe to have been simply small urns intended to receive the ashes of the infant, perhaps sacrificed at the death of its mother, so as to admit of being placed within the larger urn containing the ashes of the parent: I have therefore ventured to name them “Immolation Urns.”
The pottery exhibits considerable variety, both in clay, in size, and in ornamentation. Those vessels presumed to be the oldest are of coarse clay mixed with small pebbles and sand; the later ones of a somewhat less clumsy form, and perhaps a finer mixture of clays. They are entirely wrought by hand without the assistance of the wheel, and are mostly very thick and clumsy. They are very imperfectly fired, having probably been baked on the funeral pyre. From this imperfect firing, the vessels of this period are usually called "sunbaked” or “sun-dried ;” but this is a grave error. If they were “sun-baked” only, their burial in the earth-in the tumuli wherein, some two thousand years ago, they were deposited, and where they have all that time remained—would soon soften them, and they would, ages ago, have returned to their old clayey consistency. As it is, the urns remain of their original form ; and although, from imperfect baking, they are sometimes found partially softened, they soon regain their original hardness. They bear abundant evidence of the action of fire, and are, indeed, sometimes sufficiently burned for the clay to have attained a red colour—a result which no “sun-baking” could produce. They are mostly of an earthy brown colour outside, and almost black in fracture, and many of the cinerary urns bear internal and unmistakable evidence of having been filled with the burnt bones and ashes of the deceased, while those ashes were of a glowing and
Fig. 113. intense heat; they were, most probably, fashioned by the females of the tribe, on the death of their relative, from the clay to be found nearest to the spot, and baked on or by the funeral pyre, and then filled with the burning ashes of the dead.
The Cinerary or Sepulchral Urns vary very
considerably in size, in form, in ornamentation, and in material—the latter, naturally, depending on the locality where the urns were made; and, as a general rule, they differ also in the different tribes.
Those which are supposed to be the most ancient, from the fact of their frequently containing flint instruments along with the calcined bones, are of large size, ranging from nine or ten to sixteen or eighteen inches in height. Those which are considered to belong to a somewhat later period, when cremation had again become general, are of a smaller size, and of a somewhat finer texture. With them objects of flint are rarely found, but articles of bronze are occasionally discovered. Sometimes they are wide at the mouth, without any overlapping rim; at others they are characterized by a deeply overlapping lip or rim ; others are more of “flowerpot” form, with encircling raised bands; while others, again, are contracted inwardly at the mouth by curved rims. Some also have loops at the sides. The ornamentation is produced chiefly by incised lines, or punctures; or by lines, etc., produced by indenting a twisted thong into the soft clay. Encircling and zigzag lines of various forms, reticulated and lozenge-formed patterns, and rows of indentations, are the usual decorations ; but occasionally clearly defined patterns are produced by the finger or thumb nail. Some examples are shown on Figs. 113 to 115.
The Drinking Cups are usually of tall form, globular in the lower half, contracted in the middle, and expanding at the mouth. In ornamentation they are more elaborate than the cinerary urns, many of them, in fact, being covered over their entire surface with impressed or incised patterns, frequently of considerable delicacy in manipulation, and always of a finer and higher quality than those of the other descriptions of pottery. In some instances a kind of incrustation is observable on the inner surface; this incrustation being, doubtless, produced by the gradual drying up of the liquid with which, when placed with the dead body, they had been filled. An example is given in Fig. 116.
The Food Vessels-small urns, so called because they were probably intended to contain an offering of food—are of various forms and sizes, and are, in point of decoration, more or less elaborate. They are usually small at the bottom, and gradually swell