Potty about Pots
The Museum has a very good collection of prehistoric pots. The ability to 'fire' clay and make a pot was a skill first learned in the Neolithic period (about 4000BC). These were made from coils of clay rather than using a potter's wheel. As well as using pots for cooking, they were often buried with the dead.
By the time of the Bronze Age (about 2000BC) the pots used for funerals came in a variety of forms, from large decorated vessels to tiny 'pygmy' pots. Many of these became known by the general term of 'food' vessel, the idea being that they would hold food or drink for a meal in the afterlife.
Rather like today, there appears to have been a choice regarding cremation. The bone turned white on burning, contrasting with the high temperatures of the modern crematorium which turned the body to ash.
Burying other objects with the dead was also an important aspect of prehistoric burials. Fortunately this was a way of preserving artefacts that may otherwise not have survived. It was also a way of dating the burials before the discovery of modern scientific techniques.
Ironically with the spread of Christianity and the removal of objects from the dead, it has become more difficult to date burials where the skeleton is preserved but where all other objects are absent.
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