Beakers are one of the most well known forms of prehistoric pot in Britain.
Originating from Continental Europe, it used to be thought that Beakers
were brought to Britain by Continental immigrants, but it is now thought
that it was just the ideas behind Beakers that spread, not the people
themselves. Beakers tend to be found in graves, often with other special
objects such as gold ear-rings and flint tools, and they were originally
interpreted as drinking vessels, which is how they got their name.
There is a great deal of variety in the types of Beakers found in Britain. Traditionally, Beakers are viewed as being well-made pots, but this isn’t always the case, with many badly made Beakers in existence. Beakers do, however, tend to have an ‘S’ shaped profile, and are often thin-walled.
A selection of Beakers from the north east can be seen here, demonstrating
the diversity of forms present in the archaeological record. In the past,
archaeologists have attempted to categorise this wide variety, resulting
in some very complex type series. However, these are not very useful for
understanding Beakers, particularly in north east England. Some terms
are useful for describing Beakers though, for example short-necked
Beakers, (for example the Beaker from Blaydon), long-necked
Beakers (for example the Beaker from Seahouses) and all-over-corded
(or combed) Beakers (for example the Beaker from Plenmellor
Common). These terms refer to the shape of the pot or its decoration.
The range of decoration on Beakers is diverse. Whilst it is true that
many pots were profusely decorated with complex designs, many were not.
Very simple pots, with simple fingernail decoration, such as the one from
Huntlaw were also made. Beaker decoration is usually characterised by
the use of geometric motifs and made full use of twisted cord and comb
impression. Decoration could cover the whole body of the pot (for example
the Plenmellor Common pot), or could occur in zones (for example on the
Bellingham and Blaydon pots). Whilst some pots were carefully decorated
in great detail (such as the Seahouses pot), some appear to be a little
more carelessly decorated, as on the Horton Castle vessel.