Mystery pot turns out to be a grenade

Corfe Castle Hand Grenade

For 25 years a puzzling pot dug up at Corfe Castle has baffled every archaeologist who saw it.

That was until it was posted onto a Facebook page and an archaeologist in the Netherlands recognised it as a grenade or smoke bomb.The grenade will be on display at Corfe during the festival of archaeology which starts on Saturday (14 July) and runs until Sunday 29 July. There are also festival events taking place on Brownsea Island with demonstration digs and a recreation of an iron age log boat..

The fragments of the Corfe grenade were found back in 1986 by National Trust archaeologist Nancy Grace under the western Guard Chamber window of the outer gatehouse at Corfe Castle.

Having carefully put the pieces back together to reveal a pot with three handles and a narrow neck, experts declared they had never seen a pot quite like it.

‘We knew it was from continental Europe but the best guess was that it might be a piece of table ware, possibly an oil pot,’ said Nancy.

That was until a pottery specialist put the photographs on a medieval pottery research group on Facebook – and was sent back drawings of a Dutch ‘Stankpotten’ found at Vlissingen.

‘It is apparently one of the best they have seen,’ said Nancy. ‘A fuse would be suspended from the three handles and then the pot filled with an explosive or smoke producing mixture – there are a number of recipes for the mixture to be put inside. It is most likely to have been used as a smoke grenade rather than high explosives. It is great to finally find out what it is.’

Events at Corfe Castle over the fortnight include themed archaeology trails, and ‘Storytelling and Performance Archaeology’ by The Travelling Talesman, three times a day.

Demonstrations for families include flint knapping, metal casting, woodworking, pottery. In the second week there will be a chandlery workshop, a young archaeologists club and a chance to try making mosaics, spinning, weaving, and brass rubbing.

On Brownsea Island visitors will be able to lend a hand with the building or an Iron Age log boat, following the pattern of one on display at Poole Museum.

Carved with hand tools from a single tree felled on the island, the log boat is a replica of the 300BC design which was found nearby and would have been used in Poole Harbour by Iron Age man. Using an adze under supervision from National Trust rangers, visitors will be able to join in with building the boat and discussing how they might have been used in the harbour.

The original longboat was found by a dredger in the harbour in 1964 just east of Brownsea Island. Carved from oak and showing adze marks, it had a stern board but was otherwise made from a single tree trunk.

In addition to the log boat building, Festival of Archaeology events on Brownsea include guided walks of  the archaeological past of the island on 18 and 21 July and a mock dig over the weekend of 21/22 July.

1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Way   •  

    This is awesome! Can’t wait for Archaeology festival! 🙂

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