Querns, Millstones, and Trade in Roman and Anglo-Saxon Britain
By Jon Addison
Classlcal Studies Honours Thesis, University of Adelaide, 1995
Introduction: Using millstones and quernstones (small hand operated grain grinders) as a means of testing theories on trade and marketing in Roman times and in early mediaeval times in Britain has both advantages and disadvantages. These artefacts present an interesting case. Although it has been estimated by Adam T. Welfare that there are ‘from eight to ten thousand pre-Saxon querns in the north of England alone,’ they are frequently overlooked in excavation reports, making it difficult to conduct a complete survey. They cannot be regarded as luxury items, but as only certain sorts of rock are suitable for the manufacture of millstones and querns, they may, depending on the proximity of suitable stones, have to be transported over long distances. Thus despite being relatively everyday items, and essential for the production of refined grain, they may often not be produced locally, as in the case of coarse pottery. As millstones and querns are made of rock, and moveover, only a few specific types of rock, they should in theory be easy to provenance, using the chemical composition of the rocks of which they are composed. In addition to this, querns, and to a lesser extent large millstones, are relatively common items, and are essential in one form or another to the daily activities of a community. As a final point recommending the study of millstones, being made of stone, they are durable.