Temper for the sake of coherence

Analyses of bone and chaff tempered ceramics from Iron Age Scandinavia

By Ole Stilborg


Temper is an essential element in pottery making in many parts of the world and in large parts of the prehistory. Furthermore, it lends itself to be studied and quantified fairly easily and without advanced equipment. Since all non-plastic materials in theory may be used as temper, variations in the choice of type and quality (amount , grain size) are important indications of craft traditions, functional differences and contacts between different areas. Even other, more elusive considerations might lie behind the choice of temper. Like the bride which should wear something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue, the tempering of pottery may include materials which allude to other objects or situations, thus establishing a coherence between the pot and other phenomena. Some new examples of special tempering with bone and chaff in pottery from the Iron Age in Scandinavia are presented and discussed.

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