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    Wedgwood dating willow

    Josiah Spode I died suddenly in 1797 and it fell to his son Josiah Spode II to continue and perfect his father’s developments.

    In partnership with William Copeland, Josiah II continued the business for the next thirty years Under their management in the early 19th century, considered by many to be the “Golden Age” of English ceramics, the company grew to be the largest pottery in Stoke and a pre-eminent manufacturer of fine ceramics of every kind.

    To add to this, many people in the past may have kept ceramic vessels as heirlooms or display pieces for a very long time.

    I know that my family still owns plates and teacups that originally belonged to my granny – if we were to throw them out now, in 2013, their original date of manufacture would have absolutely nothing to do with the date at which they were discarded, or the period for which they were in use. As with the bottles, manufacturer’s marks are a good place to start and some archaeologists have come up with estimates for the amount of time we should be accounting for when we date the table wares and tea wares we find on 19 century sites.

    This ‘import delay’ (the time involved in the storage and transportation of goods from overseas manufacturers to Victorian Christchurch) is just one of the components of a broader issue in archaeological dating known as ‘time lag’, which I touched on briefly last week with the discussion of bottle reuse and an artefact’s ‘uselife’.

    wedgwood dating willow-1

    Image: (left) The Potteries, (right) Wikimedia Commons.The discussion and method behind those estimates is way, way too detailed to go into here, but, in an American context, the average duration of time between an object’s manufacture and discard has been calculated to be anything from 15-25 years (Adams 2003). Potentially more or less, depending on the characteristics of the site in question and a wealth of different variables. It’s never just as simple as looking at an object and knowing where it came from and when it was made. As I mentioned last week (and will mention again, because it’s important), the when and the where are only truly useful and interesting when they’re joined by the how and the why and the who.

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