Quern Tastic!


The Roman Age farmstead has been ploughed – deep ploughed — VERY deep ploughed, and so I took my Garrett over there last weekend. Whilst I picked up lots of good signals, because the soil has yet to be harrowed (flattened), finding the source of the signals was too problematical so I will have to wait a few more weeks.

There was the usual good scattering of Roman Age pottery however, though I didn’t retrieve any as CAFG want to do some grid field walking in the near future so if I started picking up more pottery one of two things would happen:

1) I would spoil the analysis of the field walking
2) I would need to build an extension on my house to house even more “stuff”

So, with no serious chance of finding any metal finds, and not picking up pottery I was a bit dejected, then I noticed an unusually large stone. Upon picking it up it was immediately obvious that the stone was another example from the site of a rotary quern, this time made from “local” Puddlingstone. There is a brief synopsis here of the material itself: Puddlingstone

As mentioned this is the second rotary quern fragment from the same site so as you can imagine I was delighted to add this to my collection and to have more evidence of the site to display. A rotary quern was a small hand-mill used to grind grain into flour. Rotary querns consist of two circular stones: grain was poured into a central hole in the top stone, which was then turned with a wooden handle. The grain would get crushed between the two stones as the upper stone was turned, and emerge from between the two as a coarse flour.

Rotary querns first appear in the archaeological record in the Iron Age and then continue in various guises right through the medieval period. As the rise of more “mechanical” milling methods developed household milling went by the way side.

So here they are:
Quern 1 - From Top (30cm rule)
Quern 1 - Side view (30cm scale)
Quern 2 - Puddlinstone at its most beautiful (30cm Scale)
Note the incredibly worn lower "face" - worn smooth by the action of grinding

Quern 1 – is made of a material I am not certain how to describe. It is grey in colour and appears to contain copious amounts of silica. I need to find out where it could have been mined as it would make a fascinating study to try and work out how it came to be in Everesden. As the photo shows the pouring hole through the centre is clear to see and the lower face is of course much smoother than the exterior, made so by the constant action of grinding.

Quern 2 – is the Puddlingstone example which according to my research is from Hertfordshire. Again the grinding face is very smooth and the pouring hole clear to see.

What is even more interesting is that according to the the research I have done similar querns found in neighboring Essex appear to have remained use for around 25 years a piece. Other authors believe the querns were very closely associated with the role of the woman in society and, when she died her quern would be ceremoniously smashed in two and disposed of either around her dwelling or even taken out to a remote field and a “burial” ceremony conducted.

From www.regia.org/wulfwyn.htm

All I can tell you is they are wonderful objects to look at and to hold, so utilitarian, so real – they really bring the period to life in a way coins and pottery doesn’t seem to manage.

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    • Iain Neilson
    • January 20th, 2012

    Dear Dominic,

    I have enjoyed browsing through your blog, but this item in particular caought my attention. I note that you mention quern stones on a few occasions and would be interested to know more.

    How many have you found, in total?

    Have these been recovered and saved?

    I live in Folkestone, where there was a flourishing quern stone industry in the Iron Age, and the first of your stones looks as though it may be made of the same material as our local source (Lower Greensand).

    We are currently trying to gather more information on the distribution of querns from this site and I would welcome any additional information you can supply.

    Kind regards,

    Iain

      • dshelleyic
      • April 2nd, 2012

      Hello Iain

      As you an see from my post I have found two partial querns to date…the local being the Puddlestone one…if the other is indeed Greesand then I would be delighted if you could confirm the same. I am very interested in establishing the local, regional and national trade connections the site had back in its day.

      How can we be sure the Quern that I found is intact Greensand?

      Do let me know if you need further photo’s or information and I will gladly send these on.

      I have let my local FLO know of my discoveries so hopefully these finds will appear on the HMR in the near future (backlog permitting!)

      Best Wishes
      D

      • dshelleyic
      • October 8th, 2014

      Hi Ian

      If you are still interested in Querns I have found another and so has a friend of mine.
      Let me know if you are still researching and we can share the details.
      Cheers

      D

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