Ceramics online reference resources – new dawn?

  • 26th February 2018


Two workshops have recently been hosted by Worcestershire Archive & Archaeology Service to bring together the prehistoric, Roman, and medieval ceramic research groups to discuss the creation of universal terminologies and study approaches. At present each group has their own terms for pottery forms (shape) and there are many geographically specific and overlapping reference systems for different pottery fabrics (composition of the ceramic).

The overall purpose of these meetings is to establish a multi-period online reference collection and numbering system for different pottery fabrics, with the aim of enabling greater consistency and making the study of ceramics far more cost-effective. Ceramic data could then be reused in future studies without the inconvenience and cost of having to visit the site collections to check past pottery identifications and convert old data.


Section through Fabric 75 – North Devon gravel-tempered ware


High-resolution images will make the online reference resource easier to use than traditional published formats, and enable specialists to identify pottery with a higher degree of confidence.  Another initiative, which has now been implemented, is to link existing fabric series together with cross-references (known as concordance data), thereby expanding the reach of local fabric series. Whilst national series are vital, such as the National Roman Fabric Reference Collection, more regional fabric series hold information about the variations inherent to local production. In fact, the two data levels complement each other.

These meetings are the latest stage of enhancement work on the Worcestershire Ceramics online database. Supported by Historic England, further development has taken place to the database, including the incorporation of ceramic form data for medieval pottery. An agreed list of terms to use is now being drawn up and then a data structure template can be finally be established and made generally available. This feels like laying the groundwork for the next generation of ceramic studies. Exciting times…


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