Mended earthenware dish sherds
Werraware dish sherds
  • Material – Earthenware
  • Place of Origin – Germany
  • Date – 16th-17th century
  • Location – Collections

Werraware is a highly decorated earthenware, produced in numerous workshops in north-central Germany along the Werra River, and also at the confluence of the Werra and Fulda rivers. Evidence of its manufacture has been found in Wanfried, Witzenhausen, and Münden. Production of Werraware began in the 1560s, and continued into the 1630s. Vast quantities of dishes and bowls were shipped by way of the Werra River and then the Weser, until they reached Bremen in northwestern Germany. From Bremen they were distributed from the Low Countries to England. It is notable that slipware virtually indistinguishable from Werraware was also produced in North Holland at Enkhuizen from 1602 until 1610.


Fabric: The fabrics of examples from James Fort are pinkish- to brick-orange, rough, and porous. Visible under magnification are sand, hematite, and occasional large white gravel inclusions. These inclusions are readily apparent on the unglazed exterior surfaces, as are fingerprints and smears. Some examples “sparkle” on the unglazed exteriors.

Glaze: Vessel interiors and rim exteriors are covered entirely with a very thin lead glaze containing copper oxide. Over the fabric, the glaze appears shiny orange; over the white slip, it appears pale green. Additional splashes of copper oxide appear bright green. The glazes on archaeological examples are often worn and flaked, revealing a trail of thin white slip. Excavated sherds are frequently covered with a post-depositional encrustation that appears metallic brown.

Decoration: Werraware vessels are decorated with slip-trailed dashes or stripes on the rims. The interior walls are decorated with rows of concentric circles above and below a row of devices such as foliage, swags, and geometric shapes. Interior bases are decorated with slip-painted and sgraffito-incised motifs, which include people, flowers, or animals. Although these vessels are sometimes dated in trailed slip, no examples from James Fort bear dates.

Form: Of the few Werraware vessels that have been found at James Fort, all are dishes with hammerhead-shaped rims. The walls are out-sloped with exterior rilling, and they are tooled just above the vase exterior. The bases are slightly concave on the exterior.

related images


Hurst, John G., David S. Neal, and H.J.E. van Beuningen (1986) Pottery Produced and Traded in North-West Europe, 1350–1650. Rotterdam Papers 6. Foundation “Dutch Domestic Utensils,” Museum Boymans-van Beuningen: Rotterdam.