25/9/14 — Finds Spotlight: Quern stone!

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Earlier in the week, one of our undergraduate team uncovered a find that nicely adds to the different categories of finds so far on the dig – a piece of a quern-stone from the Roman period. What is a quern-stone, and why is it significant in this project?

Quern-stone, found on the site near Hatcliffe.

Quern-stone, found on the site near Hatcliffe.

Querns are hand mills used for grain processing. In the Roman period it is likely that flour was ground on a frequent, perhaps daily basis as in the days before preservatives, wholemeal flour kept for only a short period. Most sites with domestic occupation dating to the Roman period will produce quernstones, although often only in fragment form.

Only a limited number of rock types are suitable for their manufacture so they often travel over comparatively long distances and can tell us about trading patterns and other links between different regions. This example is made from Spilsby sandstone, a local variant of Greensand which outcrops on the western side of the Wolds, where there is very likely to have been a quern factory in the Later Iron Age and Roman periods. It is part of the upper stone and shows the dished shaped of the hopper where the grain was introduced.

As is often the case, the broken quernstone was re-used and incorporated into a Late Roman floor surface.

Its shape clearly indicates that it is part of a larger, circular object.

Its shape clearly indicates that it is part of a larger, circular object.

Querns are made in different shapes according to region and stone type. Interestingly Lincolnshire Spilsby quernstones show stylistic affinities with some of those made in Kent from the similar Folkestone Beds Greensand.

We have found another fragment of grinding stone from our other site near Binbrook. This is much flatter, probably manufactured from Millstone Grit from Derbyshire or South Yorkshire and likely to come from a larger millstone. It was a surface find and as yet we are unsure of its date: it could be Roman or medieval.


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