We based this replica Grape cup on a find from the Wilsford G7 Bronze Age barrow from the Greater Stonehenge landscape. This site is of immense archaeological importance consists of 19 round barrows that make up a significant cemetery. This lovely little cup is just one of the many treasures that archaeologists unearthed during excavations of this ancient landscape.
The making of this cup is a true labour of love, with five rings of beads running around the body of the pot, each row consisting of around 26 to 27 balls of clay, making up over 130 beads in total. It takes great care to apply the beads to the pot's surface and creates a vessel that is elaborate and very tactile. The finished article is beautiful to hold.
The pot also features holes that the maker had pierced in the spaces between the clay beads. These holes would create good air circulation, making it likely that the makers used the pot to contain something that required ventilation, such as fire, perhaps.
Often referred to as an incense cup, the cup's true purpose is unknown, although several theories have been put forward over the years. One of the more plausible suggestions is that the creators of this style of cup used it to carry a lump of smouldering coal from the home hearth to the ceremonial cremation site.
This use would explain the function of the beads that allow air to circulate between them and stop your hand directly touching the pot's surface, which does get hot from the coal inside. It would also explain why there have been several of this style of vessel found in burial goods.
It also makes a good handwarmer; we have experimented with this.
But the truth is we will never know for sure.
Smoke fired Terracotta
Diameter 100 mm x Height 70 mm
Completely hand-built, from clays similar in character to those used by the original potters, this vessel has been fired in a wood fire to emulate the original's surface colouration. It has finished with beeswax polish, a material also identified in residue analysis of the originals. When there is evidence of ancient potters' tool use, I have replicated such tools using stone, wood, shell, bone, and antler based on original finds or information gained from marks on original artefacts.
We have fired this pot to emulate the ancient firing conditions. The original pot was fired in an open wood fire, in close contact with the fuel, a process that leaves its mark on the clay as variations in the surface colour. However, the low temperatures achieved in open firings also result in relatively weak pots, so this pot has been fired to a somewhat higher temperature to strengthen it, in a unique firing process that allows me to achieve an authentic appearance to the pot.
Health and Safety
This pot is a Museum Quality Replica made using the tools and techniques that potters would have used during the ancient era. As this is an unglazed pot with a porous surface, it will absorb some of the flavours during the cooking process, which does add to the taste of future dishes. However, it does also mean that this pot does not meet modern Health and Safety standards, and therefore, we do not advise that it be used for cooking. When ancient cooks cooked in these pots, they relied on applying sufficient heat to the pot and contents to ensure that heat killed all bacteria. Heating to over 70°C for at least 10 minutes would have killed most disease-causing bacteria, and temperatures of 100°C would do even more.
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