Study Group for Roman Pottery

National Research Framework: East Midlands & East Anglia

Some general points

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Edited by T.S. Martin & C.R. Wallace on behalf of The Study Group for Roman Pottery, East Midlands & Anglia Regional Group October 1997; selectively revised 2002


1.1 Common Standards

1.1.1 Importance. Consistency in reporting standards, systems and practice (especially regarding quantification) is regarded as highly desirable. The value of having common standards and recording systems lies in the ability to readily compare and contrast assemblages within and between sites, as well as to facilitate a reliable, professional, approach within the discipline. Consistency in reporting is especially important where more than one specialist is involved. The importance of maintaining high academic standards in pottery reporting is paramount.

1.1.2 Form & Fabric Series. Now that a National Fabric Reference Collection has been instituted (housed at the British Museum), the creation of regional concordance schemes would be another step towards the production of an extremely useful national type series.

The establishment of regional series will greatly assist the standardization of descriptions and definitions of regional and local Roman types (in the way that the National Fabric Collection has done), leading to more efficient pottery work in the future. This could form the basis for the common coding of widespread pottery types, replacing the various different coding systems in current use across the region.

1.1.3 Progress. Work is progressing towards the setting of common standards under the auspices of both English Heritage and the SGRP. The review commissioned by English Heritage (Fulford & Huddleston 1991) has already assessed the methodology and achievements of Roman pottery studies at local and regional coverage and has made overall (1991, 51-2), pottery-specific (1991, 38-50) and local/regional (1991, 27-37) recommendations. Similarly the SGRP has produced a minimum standards document (SGRP, 1994). Some of the Fulford and Huddleston report recommendations (specifically the first part of their 5.4.3 and 5.6) are being implemented.

1.2 Quantitative Study

The quantitative study of pottery is seen as extremely important. This can foster a greater appreciation of trade in ceramics on a national, regional and local level. We need to be in a position where we have sufficient data to be able to gauge the true importance of widely distributed fabrics and forms. Publication of large, well stratified groups without quantification should therefore be discouraged. The lack of quantified groups (published or in preparation), for example, from the south of the area (south Essex, south of the line Chelmsford-Heybridge-Bradwell), except for those from the sites at Wickford and North Shoebury, can be cited as a major factor hindering our understanding of Roman pottery in that part of the Trinovantian canton. This is also the case over much of the region covered by this research design (eg. Lincolnshire, with the exception of Lincoln).

1.3 The Value of Computer based Archives

The value of archives (especially computerized records) has been emphasised in the Study Group's Guidelines for the Archiving of Roman Pottery (SGRP 1994). The resource potential of archives is enormous and they are relatively low-cost investments. They open new windows on Roman pottery, such as spatial and functional studies and the exploration of site formation processes, extending the range of information to be gained from pottery. These records can be linked to other Roman finds and site databases through relational database software.

Continued funding of archives is essential if this resource is to be harnessed and developed. Issues arising from the long-term curation needs of computer archives also need national attention.

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