Study Group for Roman Pottery

National Research Framework: East Midlands & East Anglia

Major Gaps in Knowledge

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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


2.1 Pottery and Larger Themes

Pottery research can contribute to better understandings of a range of fields within Roman studies, many of which are directly relevant to the area covered by the present document (2.1.1-13 below). This contribution would be enhanced by more integration of (i) specialist and coarse ware studies and (ii) different finds-classes and groups of finds recovered together.

2.1.1 The relationship between Late Iron Age settlement, economy and society and the patterns established in the early Roman period. Technological change and more 'domestic' changes can be documented from pottery and other finds evidence, to compare with the picture of military and political change from historical sources.

2.1.2 Studying landscapes. On the scale of the Maddle Farm project (Gaffney & Tingle 1989), for example, pottery can be used as evidence, not just of date, but for interpreting relationships between (and within) sites (Taylor 1996).

2.1.3 Settlement patterns. Working on a larger scale than 2.1.2, finds evidence can informdiscussions of site hierarchy and function and identity, especially where documentary evidence is so lacking (Willis 1997a).

2.1.4 The development of urban sites.

2.1.5 The importance of manufacturing industries, not just pottery, to the Romano-British economy. What is the relationship between pottery production and other industrial processes (cf. 2.3.1, below)? How important is pottery production compared to other industries within the economy?

2.1.6 The relationship between late Roman and early Saxon. Like the Late Iron Age-early Roman period, there are specific issues within this field that finds evidence can be called on to illuminate, such as the impact of Continental/introduced material culture and the evidence for the impact of the Late Roman state through its exactions and its army.

2.1.7 Spatial patterning in assemblages. Are there 'assemblage-types' for the tribal areas and/or the region distinctive of a site or part of a site, eg. military, villa, urban, farmstead, midden/pit, houses etc.?

2.1.8 Consumption patterns. Pottery study can assist with the interpretation of the social contexts of eating and drinking, feasting, cooking, etc (eg. Okun 1989; Dannell 1979). This can be tied into faunal and macro-botanical evidence on the one hand and spatial patterning on the other.

2.1.9 The impact of Romanized tastes. This may be engaged through the study of the distribution of vessels indicating Romanized tastes: amphorae, flagons, mortaria, Samian and the like, and their potential influence on the local ceramic repertoire. This point clearly relates to 2.1.1 and 2.1.8.

2.1.10 The function of ceramics. More studies have been undertaken in this area by medieval pottery specialists, especially using residue analysis. Work on Romano-British pottery could learn from this, and potentially produce similarly useful results: for example, from residue analysis, examining use-wear, re-use and measures of abrasion/brokenness.

2.1.11 The character of archaeological deposits and finds assemblages. These can be examined through standard methodologies to help illuminate the nature of site formation processes.

2.1.12 Intra-site organisation. Comparison of pottery types recovered from different components of a site holds much potential for assessing the function and status of different areas

2.1.13 Defining cultural and economic regions. It is important to define regions where common ceramic traditions obtain (cf. Evans 1988). However, notional tribal/civitas areas have been used in the present document since little systematic work has been done on this subject within the region to date. This is a field which warrants attention from the ceramic angle. Other classes of finds can be used to define regions; for example, some have suggested that the presence of large quantities of coins of Tasciovanus and his associates at Harlow, Essex, demonstrates that the temple site was within the territory of the Catuvellauni and not the Trinovantes, the other alternative (see also Curteis 1997).

2.2 Pottery as Part of Regional Themes: The CATUVELLAUNI

The following suggestions are made for research on regional themes mainly from south Northamptonshire/north Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire.

2.2.1 Economic and Political identity. Clarification is required as to whether Late Iron Age ceramics from Northamptonshire have a different pattern to Leicestershire, where the imported fine wares are known from Leicester, but are apparently absent from the county? If there is a consistent pattern of difference this requires interpretation.

Is there a difference in tribal status between the Corieltauvi and the Catuvellauni? A difference in treatment by the conquering power?

2.2.2 Ceramic models for towns. Do towns with military origins (eg. Towcester and, presumably, Irchester) differ ceramically from each other or from non-military towns? Could we produce a ceramic model for towns with military origins and another for towns with civilian origins? How do these towns differ from rural sites, and why?; Why is there a richer pottery corpus at Towcester than at Ashton? What does this mean in terms of site status? Does it apply to other towns? In Hertfordshire, clear differences can be seen when Verulamium, Baldock and Welwyn are compared, which require thinking through.

2.2.3 The presence of the military in the later period? The presence of anomalously large amounts of BB1 in Towcester could indicate the presence of the military, the ware's chief customer. Towcester's pottery could be compared with that of other potential burgi between Wroxeter and London.

2.2.4 Continuity of traditions. By this is meant the study of continuity (and change) in ceramic traditions both over the Roman period and in relation to the pre-Roman Iron Age and post-Roman pottery. What is the social/cultural meaning of the continuity of native Late Iron Age pottery traditions into and right through the Roman period? Why did the native shelly and grog-tempered pottery traditions survive all the potential Romanizing influences and why, after the late 2nd/3rd century developments did the production of these wares overwhelm the market, carrying on into the fifth century?

2.2.5 Bedfordshire. A regional theme for Bedfordshire would be to study the Ouse Valley: how does it compare with other river valley areas like the Nene and the Thames? Bedfordshire is off the main military 'route' and hence an obvious research question is to what extent did native traditions survive?

The Romano-British to Saxon transition period is a particular blank within Bedfordshire, although more information is coming to light through the study of material from Sandy.

2.2.6 Cemetery assemblages. Many cemeteries have been excavated in Hertfordshire, both cremation and inhumation (eg. St Stephens at Verulamium and Baldock). There is much potential to take advantage of this data and move away from site-specific reporting to consider broad-scale comparative studies.

2.3 Pottery as Part of Regional Themes: The CORIELTAUVI

The following suggestions are made for research on regional themes from South Derbyshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Rutland and bordering parts of Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.

2.3.1 The relationship between pottery production and other industrial activities. Study of the potential relationship between pottery making and the metal extraction industries of this area should be conducted, this offers much scope for inter-disciplinary projects. An investigation of the incidence of the iron and pottery industries of the region may provide a valuable insight into the importance of industrial specialisation and the degree of compartmentalisation of industrial processes within the landscape. Iron-working and pottery production are known to have been undertaken at a number of locations including Pentney (Norfolk), Derby Racecourse, Wansford, Stibbington and Normangate Field, near Peterborough, and probably also at Swanpool, Lincoln and Doncaster. Unpublished kilns at Stibbington (B.R. Hartley's 1957 kilns A & B) and at Normangate Field (excavated in 1969-71 by J.P. Wild & G.B. Dannell) could be published as part of this study (cf. 3.4.2 below). There is also evidence of lead working taking place on the Derbyshire Ware production site at Lumb Brook, Hazelwood.

2.3.2 Derbyshire Ware. The Derbyshire Ware industry is an important pottery in part of the region, but how important? From the beginning of the Antonine until the (?) mid 4th century it appears to dominate supply at Little Chester and surrounding south Pennine sites. However, this industry also produced other fabrics not just Derbyshire Ware. Work is needed on these fabrics if we are to be able to gauge how important this industry really was (cf. 3.7.2, below). The accepted chronology of Derbyshire Ware jar types should be re-examined: separate work by R. Leary and T.S. Martin has lead both to believe that much of it is spurious. The published articles rely on sherds from old excavations, some of uncertain reliability. The study and dating of non-Derbyshire Ware coarse wares is crucial in the dating of many rural Derbyshire sites in the 3rd and 4th centuries as is the continued search for any chronologically significant features in Derbyshire Ware.

2.3.3 Towards a Regional Typology. An investigation to determine what vessel types in the region occur together and which may have formed 'series' or 'sets' would be instructive.

2.3.4 Residue Analysis. Potentially of much significance would be a programme of residue analysis of shell-gritted storage jars (cf. 2.1.10, above).

2.3.5 The relationship between Tribal Capital and Hinterland. Recent research in Leicestershire on the relationship between Ratae and rural sites in its hinterland has produced important preliminary results and this work should be supported to completion. Aspects include: (i) the rate of adoption in the first and early second centuries of 'Roman', ie. post-conquest, imported or developed wares; (ii) characterization of the diversity of assemblages and their degree of correspondence with the settlement hierarchy; (iii) exploration of the development of pottery production which shifted from Leicester to the western hinterland (Leicester Forest East)

2.3.6 Comparative Analysis of Settlement Types. Existing ceramic data can be employed to compare different settlement types and systems within the region. In Nottinghamshire, for example, assemblages from 'native' enclosures in the Trent Valley could be compared with field-walked and excavated pottery from the brickwork-plan field system settlements in north Nottinghamshire/South Yorkshire. This would give potentially valuable information about the similarity or difference in material culture of these two apparently contrasting settlement systems. Further fieldwalking in the Trent Valley and excavation in the brickwork-plan field system would enhance this data. Where significant types of assemblages are lacking or have not been given modern treatment, these should be given priority for excavation and/or re-working. In this area, little material from the villas in south Nottinghamshire is published to modern standards, though unpublished material exists in museum collections (eg. Cromwell, Epperstone, Thurgarton and Barton-in-Fabis), while re-examination of the material from the Mansfield Woodhouse and Norton Disney villas is also desirable to assess whether it would be benefit from re-publication. The collections from these sites could be compared with catalogues from fieldwalking along the Fosse Way and in the Vale of Belvoir and with pottery from Trent Valley rural settlements to determine their relationships.

The regionally important excavations at the later Iron Age and Roman sites at Holme Pierrepont during the 1970s and Dorket Head, Ramsdale Park (by Jim & Cath Turner) should be supported to publication.

2.3.7 Romanization: The varied Roman impact. The virtually aceramic Iron Age in much of Derbyshire and parts of Nottinghamshire contrasts with the rich ceramic diversity of Lincolnshire, a distinction which can also be detected in the Roman period. Projects which span the conquest period and which can be compared with settlements of similar time span in contrasting parts of the region would further our understanding of the varied impact of Romanization on the ceramics of the region (cf. also 2.3.5, above).

Analysis of a sample of existing collections could be designed to investigate the impact of Romanization on production, style and distribution mechanisms of different types of pottery. Specific questions to be addressed include the following:

(i) Do high status rural sites share the distribution network serving forts and small towns, with 'native' sites retaining an Iron Age style exchange system? Preliminary work on the differing distribution patterns of so-called "Trent Valley" ware and other 'native' shell- and grog-tempered fabrics around East Bridgford/Margidunum suggests this is the case. Here, "Trent Valley" ware seems to occur on small town and rich rural sites whereas a different kind of shell and grog tempered ware occurs on 'native' sites. Work such as this needs to be followed through.

(ii) Within the virtually aceramic zones what effect do potteries attached to forts have on pottery use in their hinterlands? This is a pertinent question in the case of Derbyshire where more assemblages from rural settlements of the period are required to address this and other questions. Although several fort assemblages are well recorded and available for this county, few assemblages from rural sites have been excavated and recorded to modern standards.

(iii) Variation between the impact of different kinds of town (Colonia, small town and vicus) to different kinds of country settlement (villa, large-scale (?) planned field-systems) can be examined in terms of differences in their ceramic assemblages.

2.3.8 Regional Pottery Chronology

(i) Early: The chronology of late Iron Age/early Roman pottery is fundamental to our understanding of this period of transition and any opportunity to improve it by studying well-stratified material or short-lived sites should be taken. This should be complemented by the re-assessment of existing data, particularly the grog- and shell-gritted wares in south Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire, including "Trent Valley" ware and the stratified material from Ancaster, Sapperton, Sleaford, East Bridgford / Margidunum, Thistleton and the 1994 excavations at West Deeping. Collaboration with the Prehistoric Pottery Group is essential.

(ii) Later: Similarly, later in the Roman period uncertain pottery chronology hampers the analysis of settlement history. The apparently conservative nature of pottery from Derbyshire and north Nottinghamshire from the mid 2nd to 4th century makes it difficult to detect any changes in distribution pattern, style zones or settlement use through time. Collaboration with the Medieval Ceramics Group is essential.

(iii) Targeted Material. It would be helpful if existing stratified groups from Doncaster and fort sites in Derbyshire (eg. Brough-on-Noe) were re-assessed and priority given to the excavation of deeply stratified and single phased sites in the area.

(iv) The publication of corpora giving types and dates for pottery from some of the major industries supplying the region is extremely important for the East Midlands and East Anglia (as well as, of course, other regions). Particularly important priorities include publication of the Mancetter-Hartshill complex and a corpora of its mortaria, flagons and other coarse wares, Nene Valley wares (cf. 3.7.2) and Swanpool products (cf. 3.7.2). These will greatly assist understanding of the chronology of the region.

2.3.9 Material from older Excavations at Forts and Small Towns. Significant gaps exist in our understanding of pottery supplies to the military and small towns in the region because the material appears in old publications or remains unpublished (eg. Ancaster, Brough-on-Fosse, Great Casterton, East Bridgford/Margidunum, Sapperton and Thorpe). Any opportunity to re-examine 'old' material or excavate further at such sites would add significantly to the database for the area and allow research into this omparatively poorly documented group of material.

2.4 Pottery as Part of Regional Themes: The ICENI

The following suggestions are made for research on regional themes from Norfolk and northern Suffolk.

2.4.1 Transition from Iron Age to Roman. The Iceni have a particular historical background (culturally distinctive later Iron Age - client kingdom - full absorption into Roman province). Pottery studies have a significant part to play in studying this process; for example, there are a small number of identified sites with 'Belgic' pottery in a region that lacks any strong pre-conquest 'Belgic' tradition. These sites would repay study. Unlike the East Midlands and Essex early imports like Terra Rubra and Terra Nigra are rare here and why this was so requires investigation. It can be seen that such regional themes link with larger ones (cf. 2.1.1).

2.4.2 Late Roman deposits. Various late 'dark earth' deposits have been identified on the rural small towns (recently Scole, previously Hacheston and Pakenham). Rapid examination suggests the character of Scole and Hacheston pottery groups to be very different. Study of these groups and comparison with those from dark earth assemblages at large urban centres (eg. Colchester) could improve our understanding of site deposition processes during this period and of the later 4th and early 5th centuries in general.

2.4.3 The Saxon Shore. Although the existing material is mostly published from Norfolk forts, any modern excavation on or near the east coast forts would be important as many questions, such as the date of abandonment, are unresolved. Studies of coins (by J. Plouviez) and hoards (by J. Davies) have suggested that something is having a 'negative' impact on the east coast region in the 4th century; this may be the military impact on a civilian zone. Comparison of existing shore fort pottery and other artefact data with hinterland sites is needed to examine this hypothesis. Publication of the pottery from Reculver is essential.

2.4.4 Transition from Roman to early Saxon. This region is important for the study of the earliest Anglo-Saxon material. It has been suggested that erstwhile limited communication between Roman and post-Roman finds specialists may have exaggerated the cultural division. In pottery studies there are very marked technological and other changes; one aspect that needs more work is comparison of clay sources in the later Roman and early Saxon periods. Some progress could also be made in defining what a ‘latest’ Roman pottery assemblage looks like and on the overall distribution of Anglo-Saxon pottery on Roman sites and its quantities. Similarly it would also be useful to have a better appreciation of what the earliest Anglo-Saxon pottery assemblages look like to see if they occur alongside the latest Roman assemblages. This may help in ascertaining whether or not the two groups coexisted. It would also be useful to know how late Roman pottery production continued beyond the late 4th and into the 5th century. Study of the Wattisford and Pentney kilns would be of some use here.

2.4.5 Characterization of sites by artefact assemblages (cf. also 3.6.2, below).

(i) This is crucial given the arable nature of the region (which results in many surface collected assemblages and relatively few excavations) and the complex Roman rural landscape thus exposed. The ‘control’ excavated groups provide the bench mark for assessing the rest. At present there is a dearth of excavated rural sites compared to small towns and military sites and also fairly few samples from rural religious sites and cemeteries, so any pottery groups arising from rural excavation should be treated as of relatively high potential.

(ii) The large metalwork assemblages recorded in the last twenty years combined with fieldwalking etc., mean that there is scope here to develop methodologies for comparing assemblages consisting of a range of finds.

2.5 Pottery as Part of Regional Themes: The TRINOVANTES.

The following suggestions are made for research on regional themes from Essex, the London area and the Hertfordshire border.

2.5.1 The lacunae. The major gaps in our knowledge concern pottery production (kiln sites and pottery traditions), the relationships between assemblages and sites and local/regional ceramic syntheses. All these issues could be addressed in the next ten years.

2.5.2 Pottery production. Study of rural pottery production in the later Roman period is significant as it may constitute an index of the economic fortunes of the region and of the robustness of Romanized tastes and demands.

2.5.3 Production in South Essex. Further studies of the significant concentration of pottery production in south Essex in the mid Roman period are necessary as much of the work to date has been done on a site-by-site basis, when there is evidently much to be gained from a more synthetic approach. Work by Pollard (1988) and Monaghan (1987) on the parallel industries across the Thames estuary in Kent have demonstrated the value of such syntheses, contributing to our wider understanding of Roman Britain.

2.5.4 The London Area. The provincial capital itself is covered in the Research Framework for Southern Britain (Huson 1997) but several areas relate to broader research questions relevant to the current document.

(i) The late Iron Age/early Roman transition in the district of north-east London has been under-represented in publications to date. It is to be hoped, therefore, that sites which have been excavated (listed in Section 3.6.3 below) are supported to publication, especially as they may form a sequence. Their evidence could be employed to address questions relating to points (ii) and (iii).

(ii) The suggested possibility of continuing differences between the west and east sides of the London basin needs to be examined. This interesting possibility, if confirmed, will require explanation, and it could relate to political-cultural differences (cf. section 3.8).

(iii) Trade patterns in the lower Thames region (across Essex, to Kent, Hertfordshire and beyond) need characterization, as does their relationship with London.

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