Beakers: form, decoration, fabric, style and condition

Ros Cleal
(National Trust) Curator, Alexander Keiller Museum, Avebury, Wiltshire
The five Beaker pots from the grave are an exceptional group, both in terms of number of vessels and quality. No other single burial has so many Beaker pots as grave goods, the most common number of Beakers in a grave being one.

The pots

The pair of pots in front of the Archer’s face are almost identical. Both pots are decorated with horizontal lines of ver fine plaited cord, pressed into the clay when damp. This is an unusual form of cord decoration in both Britain and Europe.
Neither of these pots seems to be complete. This may be because the pots were not well-fired, which in turn may be because the potter was aiming to produce a darker finish than the orange-red colour that is usual on Beakers. Producing a darker colour is more difficult than going for a full oxidising firing and may have led to under-firing. If that is so the pots are unlikely to have stood up to much use before they were put in the grave, and so it is likely they were made for the funeral and burial.
Two of the other vessels may also be a pair, made by the same potter or potters working closely together. These are a Beaker with all over comb decoration and a Beaker of very similar form and fabric which is decorated with horizontal lines of comb impression with attached ‘fringes’ of triangles pendant or upstanding from the groups of horizontal lines. This ‘fringe’ motif is a very Scottish phenomenon which makes its appearance in Wiltshire unusual.
The remaining Beaker carries all-over single cord impressions as horizontal lines. The vessel seems slightly more worn than the others and it may be an older pot used by the Archer or his family and not made specifically for burial.