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Wear and Tear

...in an early post-medieval kitchen

This metal cooking vessel has had a hard life. It is a cast tripod vessel with a single handle, of a type known as a ‘posnet’, more or less equivalent to a saucepan, and would have been used over an open fire on a hearth. It was found during excavations by Somerset County Council at Burtle Priory, in the heart of the Avalon Marshes in Somerset, in a layer which might be associated with demolition at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII. This gives us a good terminus ante quem for the posnet (ie, it must date prior to the mid-16th century), but the posnet itself gives us a clue as to its date from the profile – from the beginning of the 15th century, bag-shaped vessels such as these were beginning to replace the spherical vessels of the medieval period.
 

1875

The posnet’s handle is decorated with a line of raised squares, and on the square nearest to the rim is a stamped cross-shaped mark, probably the maker’s mark.
 
However, perhaps the most interesting aspect of this posnet is the way in which it has been used and repaired. Tripod vessels such as these suffered much wear and tear through daily use, from being continuously dragged across stone hearths. This example has lost two of its original tripod feet in the process. One was replaced by a cruder version, soldered on, while the other was not – the posnet could then only have functioned by being propped up on something, perhaps a stone, and the underside of the broken edge is worn smooth.
 
The posnet is an interesting survival – metal vessels are not common in archaeological contexts as they were so easily recycled. This well-used example may have been overlooked during the demolition of the priory following its dissolution in 1536.
 
Reporting by Wessex Archaeology on the posnet and other finds from Burtle Priory is continuing.
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