© BNPSSome were used as just incendiary weapons but very few survived because they were destroyed once they were launched
It looks innocent enough. An ancient piece of pottery, in pretty good condition aside from a few cracks here and there.

However, this artefact is causing somewhat of a stink in archeological circles.

It was assumed this ancient relic was a piece of tableware when it was unearthed at a ruined castle 25 years ago. However, it has emerged it is a 17th century stink bomb used to clear rooms during raids.

For years, experts wrongly-assumed the pot was used to store olive oil. But when a picture of it was posted on Facebook a Dutch archeologist identified it as a 400-year-old 'stankpotten' - a stink bomb.

With fuses attached to them, these bombs were often filled with substances including charcoal, sulphur and pepper seeds and exploded as they smashed.

They filled rooms with noxious smells and smoke, clearing them immediately - exactly the same principle used by the SAS when they stormed the Iranian Embassy in 1980.

The bomb - found at Corfe Castle in Dorset - dates back to the Civil War, when Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces attacked the fortress that was a royalist stronghold.

© BNPSFrom tableware to warfare: The bomb - found at Corfe Castle in Dorset (pictured) - dates back to the Civil War, when Cromwell's Parliamentarian forces attacked the fortress that was a royalist stronghold
National Trust worker Nancy Grace uncovered pieces of the relic in 1986 and painstakingly stuck the parts back together to reveal a six inch high, three-handled receptacle.

It was found outside the outer gatehouse at Corfe Castle, that was almost completely destroyed during the war.

Some were used as just incendiary weapons and because they were all destroyed when used very few survived.

This is the only one known of this design found in the UK, although spherical metal versions that look like cartoon bombs have been discovered.

Earlier this year the National Trust found funds to send some of its finds for identification and the stink bomb was sent to Lorraine Mepham at Wessex Archaeology.

She is a member of the Medieval Pottery Research Group and posted a picture of the artefact on the group's Facebook page.

Miss Grace, who still works for the National Trust, said: 'I found it in 1986. I stuck it back together and thought it was tableware for storing oil or something.

'Experts at the time said it wasn't English and had been imported but we didn't know any more than that.

'Then earlier this year we sent it off to Wessex Archaeology for a finds report.

'When I got their email I was so excited to find out what it was after all these years.

'It was found to be a weapon that would have contained any number of contents that could catch fire or cause smelly smoke to be emitted.

'It had three fuses attached to the three handles and it would have been thrown.

'I found it outside the guard room where the men who were in charge of the main gate of the castle would have worked.

'As all the pieces were in the same spot and it is clear this was never used, which was lucky really.'
Miss Mepham said: 'This was very exciting and the first one I have ever seen.

'When I got it I put it on the Facebook page of the Medieval Pottery Research Group.

'We have a lot of members and it is used for discussion and where people help each other identify sherds and vessels. And I received details of what it was.

'It is likely that this was imported, and possibly of Dutch origin. They were either used as incendiary devices or as, literally, stink bombs.

'They would have either been thrown into a room to clear it, or from a castle towards those trying to take it.

'The idea was to create noxious, smoky substance that would have cleared an area.

'Research has shown that they would fill these things with anything including charcoal, pepper seeds, sulphur and pitch.

'The fuses would have been lit and it would have exploded on impact.

'It would have been used in the same way that professionals today clear buildings with stun grenades and shows that things haven't changed all that much.'

The object will be on display at Corfe Castle from July 22 to July 29.

Corfe Castle was built by William the Conqueror and was bought Sir John Bankes in 1635.

During the Civil War his wife, Lady Mary Bankes, led the defence of the castle when it was twice besieged by Parliamentarian forces.

The first siege, in 1643, was unsuccessful, but by 1645 Corfe was one of the last remaining royalist strongholds in southern England and fell to a siege ending in an assault.

In March that year Corfe Castle was demolished on Parliament's orders.

The National Trust took over its running in the 1980s.