Grooved ware
Grooved ware is the name given to a pottery style of the British Neolithic
The Neolithic Age, Era, or Period, or New Stone Age, was a period in the development of human technology, beginning about 9500 BC in some parts of the Middle East, and later in other parts of the world. It is traditionally considered as the last part of the Stone Age...

. Its manufacturers are sometimes known as the Grooved ware people
Grooved ware people
Most Neolithic cultures in Britain are best identified by the pottery remains which they left. A large number of apparently unrelated cultures seem to have produced urns which have characteristic grooves near the top rim, hence the name grooved ware people....

. Unlike the later Beaker ware, Grooved culture was not an import from the continent but seems to have developed in Orkney, early in the 3rd millennium BC
3rd millennium BC
The 3rd millennium BC spans the Early to Middle Bronze Age.It represents a period of time in which imperialism, or the desire to conquer, grew to prominence, in the city states of the Middle East, but also throughout Eurasia, with Indo-European expansion to Anatolia, Europe and Central Asia. The...

, but was soon adopted in Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...


The diagnostic shape for the style is a flat bottomed pot with straight sides sloping outwards and grooved decoration around the top. Beyond this the pottery comes in many different varieties, some with complex geometric decorations others with applique bands added. The latter has led some archaeologists to argue that the style is a skeuomorph
A skeuomorph , or skeuomorphism ,is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues to a structure that was necessary in the original...

 and is derived from wicker basketry.

Grooved ware pots excavated at Balfarg
Balfarg is a prehistoric monument complex in Glenrothes in Fife, Scotland .The Balfarg henge is part of a larger prehistoric ceremonial complex...

 in Fife
Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

 have been chemically analysed to determine their contents. It appears that some of the vessels there may have been used to hold black henbane
Henbane , also known as stinking nightshade or black henbane, is a plant of the family Solanaceae that originated in Eurasia, though it is now globally distributed.-Toxicity and historical usage:...

 (Hyoscyamus niger) which is a poison but also a powerful hallucinogen.

Since many Grooved ware pots have been found at henge
There are three related types of Neolithic earthwork which are all sometimes loosely called henges. The essential characteristic of all three types is that they feature a ring bank and ditch but with the ditch inside the bank rather than outside...

 sites and in burials it is possible that they may have had a ritual
A ritual is a set of actions, performed mainly for their symbolic value. It may be prescribed by a religion or by the traditions of a community. The term usually excludes actions which are arbitrarily chosen by the performers....

 purpose as well as a functional one. Grooved ware comes in many sizes, some vessels are extremely large, c.30gallons, and would be suitable for fermentation. The majority are smaller, ranging from jug to cup size, and could be used for serving and drinking. The theory that the first British farmers ( c.4000 BC) had the knowledge and ability to make Ale from their crops with their pottery appears to be controversial and not yet wideley discussed by the archaeological community.

The earliest examples have been found in Orkney and may have evolved from earlier Unstan ware
Unstan ware
Unstan ware is the name used by archaeologists for a type of finely made and decorated Neolithic pottery from the 4th and 3rd millennia BC. Typical are elegant and distinctive shallow bowls with a band of grooved patterning below the rim, using a technique known as "stab-and-drag". A second version...

 bowls. The recent excavations at nearby Ness of Brodgar
Ness of Brodgar
Ness of Brodgar is an archaeological site covering excavated from 2003 onwards between the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site near Loch of Harray, Orkney, in Scotland...

 have revealed many sherds of finely decorated Grooved ware pottery, some of it representing very large pots. A large number of drinking vessels have also been identified. The style soon spread and it was used by the builders of the first phase of Stonehenge
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about west of Amesbury and north of Salisbury. One of the most famous sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of a circular setting of large standing stones set within earthworks...

. Grooved Ware pottery has been found in abundance in recent excavations at Durrington Walls
Durrington Walls
Durrington Walls is the site of a large Neolithic settlement and later henge enclosure located in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. It is 2 miles north-east of Stonehenge in the parish of Durrington, just north of Amesbury...

 and Marden Henge
Marden Henge
Marden Henge is the largest stone age henge enclosure in the United Kingdom, located in the village of Marden, Wiltshire, situated within the Vale of Pewsey between the World Heritage sites of Avebury and Stonehenge....

in Wiltshire. Here, the feasting would have involved drinking ale and eating pork. Smaller quantities of Grooved ware have also been found at the nearby site of Figsbury Ring
Figsbury Ring
Figsbury Ring is a 11.2 hectare biological Site of Special Scientific Interest in Wiltshire, notified in 1975. It is owned and managed by the National Trust....


Grooved ware was previously referred to as Rinyo-Clacton ware, first identified by Stuart Piggott in the 1950s and named after sites where it was found. Rinyo
Rinyo was a Neolithic settlement on the island of Rousay in Orkney, Scotland. The site was discovered in the winter of 1837-38 on the lands of Bigland Farm in the north east of the island at . It was excavated in 1938 and 1946 by Vere Gordon Childe, and by W. G. Grant...

is a neolithic settlement on the island of Rousay, Orkney. The site at Clacton now lies under the sea.
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