Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Audleystown neolithic bowl

Audleystown megalithic tomb lies on the south shore of Strangford Lough, near the back entrance to Castle Ward. It is a ‘dual court tomb’ in that it is essentially two court tombs, placed back to back. It was excavated by A.E.P. (Pat) Collins in 1952 and the disarticulated remains of at least 34 individuals were recovered. The burials were of both males and females of various ages, indicating that formal burial here was not restricted by sex or age.  I know I do bang on about this, but when we see reconstruction drawings of Neolithic life we almost exclusively see images of males - the fact that women and children were afforded high status burial should alert us to the understanding that they would have occupied similarly high social positions in life too. Of the 15 pottery vessels recovered from the site, most were plain Western Neolithic carinated (shouldered) and uncarinated (unchouldered) bowls.

The pot in today’s image is one of these plain, uncarinated bowls. It caught my attention precisely because it’s not one of the most interesting looking pieces and, consequently, is not one that would be regularly chosen for display. The second reason I find it charming is that the object on display is largely modern, with only a relatively small portion being original, Neolithic ceramic. To me, at least, it is testament to the conservator’s art in demonstrating how fragmentary excavated remains can be accurately extrapolated to give a clear understanding of what the vessel would have looked like when new and whole.

The Audleystown vessel is on display at the Ulster Museum, Belfast.

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