Nicolas THOMAS, Caroline CLAUDE
Recent excavations in the Île-de-France have produced several 13th and 14th century pots whose bases were pierced post-firing. Study of surviving traces points to use in distillation per descensum widely employed in the Middle Ages for the production of vegetable oils and not for producing strained cheese as is often suggested. This distillation process, described by alchemists, is used in the manufacture of pharmaceutical remedies. The pots can be compared with previous finds and, given their conditions of use, dimensions and social context, one may hypothesize that they are related to the occasional practices of an educated urban population. These limited domestic productions contrast with rural craft industry, located in regions endowed with raw materials. This observation provides a rare example of a technique being spread by written sources and reveals the distance which separates knowledge from know-how.