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Kent Archaeological Review extract

A Quern Survey in Kent.
by W S PENN.

Some of the most sadly neglected antifacts in archaeology are querns which are found in such abundance on Roman sites. Not only do they provide valuable evidence on milling methods, but they can be used for dating purposes, although much more evidence is required to improve the technique. Unfortunately most reports simply say "fragments of querns were found."

The authorities on the subject are Childe See Footnote [1], Curwen See Footnotes [2 and 3] and Moritz See Footnote [4] who should be consulted for details. Crawford See Footnote [5] has informed us that the common expressions Andernach and Niedermendig lava are incorrect. Mayen lava is correct. There are, of course, other materials including sandstones and conglomerates.

A rotary quern consists of a fixed lower stone on which is rotated an upper stone. The latter is kept in position by means of a spindle fixed in the lower stone and passing right through the upper stone. It is located precisely in the upper stone by a strip of metal across the hole called a rynd which has spaces on either side of it to allow the grain through. A vertical handle is fixed to the upper stone.

Details of construction vary from period to period and Curwen's broad outline is as follows:

Pre-Roman (From 100 BC)
Diameter: 12 to 14 inches,
Thickness upper stone: 6 to 8 inches,
Angle of grinding surface: circa 20 degrees.
GRAPHIC: quern development -- Pre-Roman.
Early Roman
Diameter: circa 15 inches,
Thickness upper stone: circa 2½ inches ,
Angle of grinding surface: 15 degrees or less.
GRAPHIC: quern development -- Early Roman.
Later Roman
Diameter: 20 inches or more,
Thickness of upper stone: 2 to 2½ inches,
Angle of grinding surface: 10 degrees or less.
GRAPHIC: quern development -- later Roman.
Late Roman
Diameter: variable,
Thickness of upper stone: thin,
Angle of grinding surface: 3 degrees or less.
GRAPHIC: quern development -- Late Roman.

The first type is shaped like a beehive and the latter consists of two flat discs, the general change through the years being obvious. The vague dating is also obvious, something which must be rectified.

I propose that 1966 be a "quern year" in Kent and I ask all field archaeologists to co-operate by sending me the information overleaf not only on querns they find during the year, but on any they already have or which are in local museums. In return, I will report and collate the information and be pleased to offer advice on all aspects of querns.

The following information should be typed on a postcard, a separate card for each quern:

  1. material
  2. date of stratum where possible
  3. diameter
  4. thickness
  5. shape (including cross-sectional sketch)
  6. diameter and shape of hole
  7. whether grooved and description of striations
  8. angle of grinding surface
  9. whether socket for handle

It is hoped that this scheme will be the first of many and will not only provide useful information but demonstrate what organised archaeology can do. Perhaps we will be able to emulate Dr Curwen who, in 1937, reconstructed some querns, made flour from them and treated members of the Sussex Archaeological Society to scones made from the flour!


Footnote 1.

V Gordon Childe, Antiquity, XVII, page 19. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 2.

E C Curwen, Antiquity, XI, page 133. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 3.

E C Curwen, Antiquity, XV, page 15. Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 4.

L A Moritz, Grain-Mills and Flour in Classified Antiquity, OUP (1958). Return to the paragraph.

Footnote 5.

O G S Crawford, J Roder and others, Antiquity, XXIX, page 68.. Return to the paragraph.
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