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Occasionally whole vessels are found, particularly where they have been used as grave goods or cremation 'urns'.
These are important in providing us with a type series of vessel forms, although broken vessels can be just as useful for this. The clay from which it is made often contains pieces of burnt flint or other stone and the pottery appears very coarse.
The study of pottery is an important branch of archaeology.
This is because pottery is: Small fragments of pottery, known as sherds or potsherds, are collected on most archaeological sites.
However, in the Middle and Late Saxon period (mid-7th to 11th centuries), many potteries were based in towns.
Clay pits were usually dug quite close to the kiln, on the peasant's croft or common.
Whilst some areas, such as Cornwall, continued to import fine pottery from the Continent, other areas reverted to handmade vessels in similar forms to those of the pre-Roman Iron Age.
Plain cooking vessels and decorated 'urns' were again common.
Multi-flue types were also used later, allowing greater capacity and needing peat or coal as fuel.
Methods of stacking vessels in kilns are interpreted from excavated kilns which contain partial loads, but can also be reconstructed from kiln scars on glazed pottery and kiln bars, and from the direction of glaze drips on decorated vessels.
Inclusions in the pottery, to prevent shrinkage in the kiln, vary between geological regions.