Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

The Production of the Workshop of Potter Johann Rehn of Tartu (CA 1684-1708)/ Tartu Pottsepa Johann Rehni Tookoja (Umbes 1684-1708) Toodang

Academic journal article Estonian Journal of Archaeology

The Production of the Workshop of Potter Johann Rehn of Tartu (CA 1684-1708)/ Tartu Pottsepa Johann Rehni Tookoja (Umbes 1684-1708) Toodang

Article excerpt


In the cultural layer of Estonian medieval and post-medieval towns, castles and villages, potsherds form the most numerous category of fords. Among the archaeological pottery of the 16th to 18th-century towns, redwares with tin glaze form the largest share. In spite of this, redwares from Estonia have regrettably seldom attracted the attention of investigators. The first, and also the last comprehensive study, which also examines redwares, was published by Konrad Strauss in Basle in 1969. This voluminous monograph was based on material, collected by the author from the museums and archives of Estonia and Latvia before and during World War II. In Estonia, stove tiles from the 15th-17th century, and the technology of their production have been studied in more detail (e.g. Vunk 1996; 2000).

Redware vessels with tin glaze were produced in the whole Baltic Sea region. This fact makes it difficult to determine the place of their production, as tablewares from other region, often by no means different from local products, were imported to Livonia. The reason for similar production methods lies in the fact that most of the potters who settled in Livonia, originated from the German-speaking cultural space then extending around the Baltic Sea (Russow 2005). The problem how to date redware products from the 16th to 18th century more precisely, and how to distinguish imports from local production, has troubled the investigators for decades. The best way for determining the origin of pottery products is to find out a site of pottery production, and investigate production remains found from that site. In Estonia, only the remains of a 13th-century potter's workshop in Viljandi has been investigated and published so far (Tvauri 1999; 2000; 2001).

A partial solution to the problem of origin and dating of Estonian redware vessels is offered by the production remains and moulds for stove tiles, found from a potter's workshop at Magasini Street in Tartu, which was operated in the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The existence of a potter's workshop at that site (Fig. 1) was recognized already in 1909, as Baltic German amateur historian Richard Otto organized excavations at the site of medieval Dominican monastery, which also produced material indicating a potter's workshop (Otto 1911). On the basis of data published by Otto, K. Strauss presented this find in his monograph (1969, 149-150). The new archaeological finds from Magasini Street and other regions of Tartu, collected since 1993, have offered a lot of additional material, which forms the basis for the current article. The finds are worth publication, as post-medieval pottery waste has not been recorded in Estonia so far.

Archaeological investigations at the site of the Church of Dormition of the Theotokos in Tartu in 1909

In the summer of 1909, Richard Otto organized excavations at the site of the Tartu Orthodox Church of Dormition of the Theotokos, in order to locate the earlier Church of Mary Magdalena of the Dominican monastery, which was located at that parcel. For that cause, he made sondages in front of the Church of Dormition of the Theotokos, on the western side of the one-time church of the monastery. Approximately at the depth of 1.2 m from ground level, the walls of buildings, constructed of granite stones were unearthed, from inside of which a surplus of potter's clay and a lot of potsherds were collected (Otto 1911, 138-141). The most remarkable find, however, was a mould, used for the production of stove tiles with the depiction of a horseman (Fig. 2). On the back side of the mould, made of red clay, the following text reads: JOHAN REHN anno 1684 FR BN d. 3. Majus.



The finds from the excavations by Otto have unfortunately mostly been lost. A few of the finds were stored in the collections of the Learned Estonian Society, from where these were handed over to Estonian National Museum in 1940. …

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