Frankish Pot

This Frankish pot was discovered in Maastricht, Limburg, a southeastern city in the Netherlands. It dates back to the period of 601-650 CE and was found in 1929. During the Merovingian period, different artisanal activities became quite frequent in Maastricht. In the area on the west bank of the River Meuse, at the Lage Kanaaldijk and in Lanakerveld, and on the east bank of the river, in the Céramique-area, traces of pottery production have been recovered (Dijkman, 2013). On the east bank of the River Meuse, in the Céramique-area, four cross-draught pottery kilns were excavated, and that is where this pot was found (Dijkman, 2013). This particular pot is a misfired pot which means it was probably never used for practical purposes. However, its intended purpose may have included cooking.

3D model of the Frankish Pot

This object belongs to the following theme:



Place of Origin
Céramique Area, Maastricht,
The Netherlands

Time Period of Use (ca.)
601 – 650 CE


Dimensions (cm)

3D Model

Canon EOS 250D

Processing software
Agisoft Metashape Professional Edition

Intan Widyawati & Nitya Nair

The Frankish Pot: A Glimpse into The Maastricht History

The Frankish Pot is a cultural heritage artifact that plays a role in certain moments of history that were closely related to Maastricht and the life of its people in the past. Apart from the fact that these artifacts were found in the city area of Maastricht itself, the findings indicate that the city had a connection with the pottery production activities of its time.

Frankish Pot

The Frankish pot is an ovoid pot with a rolled up rim. It has a rough textured surface, uneven shades of greyish brown, has several jagged cracks that seems to have been re-attached probably during the conservation process to make a stable pot, a wave pattern under the rim of the pot, and number markings on the bottom and the inside that may also have been added during the conservation process to record it. It is made from clay of local origin, and was found in Maastricht in 1929, dating back to the first half of the 7th century (601-650 CE), during the Merovingian Period (Dijkman, 2013). 


Clay is a material that has the ability to form a cohesive mass when it is wet with the correct amount of water (Balasubramaniam, 2017). This also allows it to be reshaped and moulded into different forms in which it retains its shape, due to its quality of plasticity. When this material is heated to significantly high temperatures, clay undergoes partial melting, which then results in a tight, hardened substance, widely recognised as ceramic material. Pottery and ceramics are created by firing raw materials such as clay and pottery stones. It originated during the Neolithic period (Balasubramaniam, 2017). The process of pottery involves reshaping and holding clay into required shapes, and then heating the moulded clay at high temperatures in a kiln to evaporate the water from the clay and harden the object. It is commonly used in cooking, such as this Frankish Pot, because the material is hard and strong, and can also withstand the high temperatures required during cooking. Since clay is a non-toxic material, it is also safe to use in order to cook food (Balasubramaniam, 2017).

Clay Pottery Making (Skill Spotter, 2021)

Maastricht’s Merovingian Period and The Excavation

The occupation of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks in Maastricht in the years 400 to 750 AD (Vesting Museum Maastricht, n.d) is one of the significant historical periods of Maastricht. During this era, its history is linked to religion and it symbolises the beginning of the development of Christianity. There were two major historical churches, namely Our Lady, a church located inside the old Roman Castellum, and Saint-Servatius, that portrayed the complex history from the Roman period to the early Middle Ages (Theuws, 2001; Wetzels, 2018).

Merovingian Maastricht. Excavated Sites. 1 Mabro; 2 Derlon; 3 Boschtraat-area; 4 Jodenstraat; 5 Ceramique-area; 6 Witmakersstraat; 7 Rijksarchief; 8 Large Kanaaldjik; 9 Lanakerveld. Churches & Bridges: A Church of Saint-Servatius; B Church of Our Lady; C Saint-Martin; D Roman bridge. (Dijkman, 2013)

During the Merovingian period, there were several different artisanal activities that were prevalent in Maastricht. Indications of pottery production were found and recovered in many areas. First, on the west bank of the River Meuse, at the Lage Kanaaldijk in Lanakerveld. Secondly, on the east bank of the river, in the Céramique-area (Djikman, 2013). On the east bank of the River Meuse, in the Céramique-area, four cross-draught pottery kilns were excavated (Dijkman, 2013).

The kilns of the Céramique-area were vertical-updraught kilns. This implies a horizontal separation of the fireplace and the firing chamber. The kiln walls were partly filled with pots. All of the four kilns were filled with misfired products from other kilns. All pottery produced was wheel thrown, a process of shaping clay using a pottery wheel (Van Wersch, 2013). Fine wares and coarse wares were two types of pottery that could be distinguished in the local productions (Van Wersch, 2013).

Misfired pottery from the Céramique-area (Dijkman, 2013)

Céramique-area, kiln (Dijkman, 2013)

A fine wares pot has more of a smooth surface (Van Wersch, 2013). Similar to the course ware that also has been found, these pots were also wheel thrown. The clay used for fine wares and coarse wares influenced the colour that developed on its surface based on how it was fired. The surface can turn from beige to red if the firing takes place in an atmosphere where there is excess of oxygen. On the other hand, a darker colour will be produced if there is less oxygen during the firing (Van Wersch, 2013).

Texture of Fine & Coarse Wares. Fine Wares (Left); Coarse Ware (Right) (de Torres Rodríguez, 2017)

This Frankish pot can be identified as coarse-ware based on its description of being wide-mouthed and having everted, hollowed, lid-seated rims and flat, wire-cut bases (Van Wersch, 2013). It was intended to be a cooking pot, but because it was misfired, it was probably left unused for most of its life cycle. Although the pot was never used, its shape along with its coarse material indicate that it was intended for cooking. The primary use of coarse wares was for food preparation, while fine wares were usually used for table service (Van Wersch, 2013; de Torres Rodríguez, 2017).

Different Shapes of Coarse & Fine Wares. 1-4 = Fine wares; 5-7 = Coarse wares (Van Wersch, 2013)

Research based on the observation of residues on these similar artifacts, shows how people used these pots in the process of preparing food. People in this era sometimes served food straight from the pot that was placed on direct fire, over the fire, and in a spit (Oudemans & Kuiper, 2022). In addition, each pot with different sizes and shapes was generally not only used for storing food, but also for different liquid materials such as water. Thus, sometimes, it is not easy to tell exactly which vessels were used for cooking and storing (Oudemans & Kuiper, 2022).

Maastricht Pottery: Then & Now

The Frankish pot was found in one of the excavated kilns around the area where artisanal activities commonly occurred in the period. This particular pot was also assumed to be manufactured in the city. The excavation of this Frankish pot could possibly refer to the fact that Maastricht has become a region renowned for the manufacture and production of pottery. This is because, the time period after the kilns and the misfired pots were discovered, in 1836-1969, ceramic production became a prominent industry in this town (The Memory, n.d). In fact, the pottery industry is claimed to be one of the pillars of Maastricht’s income (The Memory, n.d).

The Frankish pot gives us a glimpse into the history of Maastricht and its crucial role in the ceramics industry. Artisanal activity in Maastricht, especially in this period was not just limited to pottery, but also glass, iron, copper, antler, amber, and others (Dijkman, 2013). The pot is a symbol of Maastricht’s history since it dates back to the 7th century and provides insight into the daily life of individuals who lived during that period as well as the role of pottery in the history of the region.

Written by Intan Widyawati & Nitya Nair