At the Volunteer coffee morning on 22 February, Roy Wilde gave a very informative talk on Neolithic pottery from Durrington Walls and Woodhenge.
In one of the drawers in the Wessex Gallery is a collection of late Neolithic pottery from these two sites. Roy referred to this as the “Ceramic Age” and considers the Durrington Walls and Woodhenge assemblage as probably the most significant from the Neolithic period in Europe.
During the excavation of Durrington Walls in 1966, Geoffrey Wainwright found grooved ware – the first type of pottery in Britain with a flat, rather than rounded, base. Earlier round-based pots had been tempered (made stronger) with flint and survived well in fires and so could be used for cooking. The grooved flat-bottomed pots were free standing. They had been made with a softer substance with shell or grog (pieces of previously fired clay) temper. These pots were not good conductors of heat and would shatter in fire. They were also porous.
Further investigations showed the grooved pots had been used for fermentation and dairy products. They had a refrigerating effect, being porous, which aided evaporation. Grooves increased the surface area and increased the effect.
In conclusion, Roy said that the emergence of grooved ware was the great leap of the Neolithic Age, the pots having a practical purpose, coupled with artistic design, and this is typified by the Durrington Walls and Woodhenge assemblage.