Southampton has a long and diverse history of research into archaeological ceramics. Pioneered by David Peacock from the 1960s onwards, the field is now thriving at the University, and includes a combination of social and scientific approaches, with specific projects focusing on areas widely distributed through time and space.
Our research centres on the integration of scientific/empirical data and rigorous methodological and theoretical critique. Many of the initiatives that have come from Southampton ceramics research have made significant impact upon the wider field, with many of our innovations being widely adopted.
Ceramic studies at Southampton cover a timescale from the Neolithic to the contemporary and ethnographic, and focus on areas of the world as widespread as the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, Egypt and the Sudan, India, Afghanistan, the Pacific and of course many areas of the UK. We focus in particular on pottery as indicator of diet and subsistence; innovation and the transmission of skill in ceramic technology; cultural change as reflected in ceramic production and consumption; industrial ceramics; and contact, supply, trade and economic networks.
Intrinsically linked to our ceramics research is the work of colleagues on stone artefacts, which crosses over with pottery studies at the borders of geology, petrology and other scientific techniques, and often makes use of the same facilities. Cross-fertilisation between these groups is regular and fruitful, both in theoretical and methodological terms.
Originally the brainchild of Sandy Budden, the highly successful ‘Mad about Pots’ seminar series has now become a regular fixture within Archaeology at Southampton, and provides an opportunity for informal lunchtime papers by scholars including internationally renowned academics, PhD students, and everyone in between. The series regularly attracts a sizable and enthusiastic audience, and places an emphasis on artefact handling; its organisers welcome innovative, adventurous and off-the-wall approaches to ceramic and related subjects, past and present. Anyone who would like to contribute to the series please contact Sandy (S.A.Budden@southampton.ac.uk).
Ceramics research at Southampton is supported by a suite of dedicated labs and stores. These include a microscope room, a lab for the preparation of thin sections, and another with a fume cupboard (used for consolidation, heavy mineral extraction, etc). There is also the lithics room, used for the storage of the extensive collection of geological samples from Britain and abroad, as well as for practical sessions, spreading out and working on assemblages. Finally, the ceramics store contains archaeological pottery and artefacts of varying provenance and date. Our labs are ably kept in order by our part-time ceramics and lithics technician, Jill Phillips, in conjunction with Archaeology’s technician Dom Barker.
These labs are the main location for the teaching of our MA in Ceramic and Lithic Analysis for Archaeologists, and support the research activities of our doctoral students, affiliated researchers and staff. We also have good relationships with the staff of English Heritage Archaeological Science facilities at Fort Cumberland, who kindly facilitate access to their equipment for more specialist analyses. Our keenest undergraduates are also able to benefit from placements at English Heritage’s stores and archives facility at Fort Brockhurst.
Southampton has an extensive collection of archaeological and ethnographic pottery, collected by staff, stored or on loan to the department. These collections are both teaching- and research-active. For any research queries about these collections, please contact Alison Gascoigne (A.L.Gascoigne@southampton.ac.uk). We would be delighted to facilitate access to this material by outside scholars if approached.
Among our collections we have the following significant assemblages: