Archaeologists Uncover A Centuries-Old Pottery Workshop In France With Cookware Still In The Kiln

Published May 8, 2024

Archaeologists discovered a large kiln used for making cookware and serving dishes and a second, smaller kiln used to hold pottery waste.

Pottery Workshop France

F. Auduit/INRAPThe excavation site at Montreuil-sur-Mer, France.

Archaeologists from the French National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) recently excavated a pottery workshop in the town of Montreuil-sur-Mer, France.

Centuries ago, Montreuil-sur-Mer’s Thorin district was a cloth and pottery trading hub. For this reason, researchers have been excavating the area in hopes of discovering artifacts of historical and cultural importance.

There, six feet underground, researchers uncovered the ruins of a 400-year-old pottery workshop complete with pieces of cookware still in its kilns.

Excavating The Well-Preserved Pottery Workshop

Pottery In Kiln

J.-C. Routier/INRAPNearly intact pottery was discovered in the kiln.

Recently, archaeologists from the INRAP excavated a site in Montreuil-sur-Mer, France, about 150 miles north of Paris. Hundreds of years ago, this region acted as a trade hub — a fact that inspired archaeologists to conduct digs across the city.

Six feet beneath the ground, archaeologists discovered the remnants of a pottery workshop with two kilns.

The main furnace was almond-shaped and made of bricks. Inside, the team discovered pieces of pottery and pottery waste.

“The ceramic shards and pottery collected almost completely in situ… reveal production in red earth for preparation and cooking (teles, frying pans, tripod pots) but also tableware (pitchers, pots),” INRAP stated in its press release.

Pottery From Kiln

J.-C. Routier/INRAPDesigns on pottery found in the kiln.

The second furnace was smaller and older. Its bricks did not show signs of any heat damage, leading researchers to believe that it was never used. Instead, workers at the shop likely stored pottery waste inside.

Archaeologists have also discovered traces of walls and buildings surrounding the workshop. Its presence is unprecedented in Montreuil-sur-Mer and the surrounding area.

The Importance Of Montreuil-Sur-Mer In French History

Funerary Tile

J.-C. Routier/INRAPArchaeologists found a shattered funerary tile in the kiln.

The city of Montreuil-sur-Mer has been inhabited since the 10th century, but it began to flourish in the 13th century as a cloth trading hub. The city’s largest trading district was Thorin, the location of the excavated pottery workshop. Thorin became the center of pottery production in the area. Artifacts date back as early as the 13th century.

In the case of the excavated pottery workshop, researchers have found evidence that the site was used as early as the 12th century.

“The first activity on the site was the extraction of natural red sand from the 12th century, according to the ceramic furniture collected in several pits arranged in a battery to the east of the site,” the press release stated. However, most of the pottery originates from the 16th and 17th centuries.

After the shop closed around the 17th century, other buildings were constructed on top of it, burying the kilns deeper beneath the soil. Now that it’s been unearthed once again, researchers are eager to see what else the site has to reveal about the history of Montreuil-sur-Mer.

After reading about the pottery workshop discovered in France, learn about China’s Terracotta Army and its 7,000 clay soldiers. Then, look through these photos of historical erotic art.

Amber Morgan
Amber Morgan is an Editorial Fellow for All That's Interesting. She graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in political science, history, and Russian. Previously, she worked as a content creator for America House Kyiv, a Ukrainian organization focused on inspiring and engaging youth through cultural exchanges.
Cara Johnson
A writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina and an assistant editor at All That's Interesting, Cara Johnson holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Washington & Lee University and an M.A. in English from College of Charleston and has written for various publications in her six-year career.
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Morgan, Amber. "Archaeologists Uncover A Centuries-Old Pottery Workshop In France With Cookware Still In The Kiln.", May 8, 2024, Accessed May 23, 2024.