Study Group for Roman Pottery

Amsterdam Conference 2011

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Conference - Amsterdam Fri 24th to Sun 26th June 2011

Organised by the VU University Amsterdam & the University of Amsterdam

Programme - summaries of lectures

Friday 24th of June
Session 1: Production sites on both sides of the Channel and the distribution of their wares

The city of Forum Hadriani: a supply base for the military on the Dutch coast
Julie Van Kerckhove/Mark Driessen
The ceramic evidence from the excavations at Voorburg-Arentsburg will be the subject of this paper. The huge quantity of sherds – found in a spectacularly well-preserved harbour – reveals the role and function of the Roman harbour city Forum Hadriani. Studying provenance, changing networks and the form and function of pottery for all well-dated contexts sheds light on the strong connection between trade and the military in Forum Hadriani. Moreover, the resemblance with the pottery from the recent excavations in the harbour of London (Drapers Gardens) is striking. How is it possible that the harbour of London and Forum Hadriani share the same pottery imports, the same ritual deposits and the same formation processes‌
Another focus during the pottery analysis was the creation of a typology for each production region in order to use Forum Hadriani as a type-site for the region. In this way everyone can benefit from the increased knowledge of both regionally produced as well as imported pottery.

North-Menapian coastal pottery tradition in the Roman period. A military-native interaction‌
Wim De Clercq & Sofie Vanhoutte
The north Menapian area situated along the southern channel-coast witnessed an intense occupation during the Roman period. Recent archaeological research sheds new light on both military and civilian occupation and material culture patterns. Based on 10 well dated pottery complexes, the technological, quantitative and typological aspects of the regional pottery consumption and production in the region will be assessed.
As in the rest of the North-Menapian area, native hand-made pottery traditions seem to have persisted in considerable way throughout the Roman period, both in quantities and in formal diversity. This group also demonstrates parallels with British as well as continental inland native productions.
During the late second century at least one wheel-thrown group of grey pottery in which both coarse and fine new vessel-forms were produced, appears in the coastal region. Fabric analysis shows the probable use of a tertiary clay source, situated south of Bruges. This group constitutes the largest pottery group of common pottery in the military sites in the region during the second and third centuries, but it is also well represented at civilian sites and seems to have existed along the continuing hand-made tradition. Forms of the new repertoire equally appear in the native pottery spectrum.
In the paper we want to analyze the evolution of these wares during the first three centuries. Apart from the development of a typo-chronological and technological framework of the regional pottery traditions in the region questions will be raised concerning the possible influence of the army on, and the interactions with the local pottery tradition and consumption patterns.

The distribution of Northern French pottery to Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands:
a distinct choice of forms and categories
Sonja Willems, Stéphane Dubois, Cyrille Chaidron
Several pottery production zones and their kiln sites have been characterised in the latest few years, thanks to the exchange of data of about 300 sites. Distribution maps have clearly shown that specific categories and forms are exported, while other categories are only locally used. This lecture focuses on the categories and forms distributed to Britain and towards the North. The Noyon, Beauvais and La Calotterie production zones have transported their products towards England, while the Bavay/Famars, Bruay-Labuissière and Arras/Dourges regions exported towards the North. The aim is to give an overview of these long distance exports and to raise the question of the division of pottery markets and the function of certain forms.

The Lower Nene Valley: A Major Local and Regional Production Centre
Rob Perrin
Roman pottery production in the Lower Nene Valley around modern Peterborough began soon after the arrival of the Romans in the area. The growth of the Roman small town of Durobrivae and the exploitation of the adjacent Fenland provided a stimulus for the development of a sizeable pottery industry from the second century onwards. The bulk of the production at this time was essentially utilitarian grey and shell tempered wares, together with mortaria, but in the middle of the century the potters began to produce a range of fine colour coated wares. These comprised mainly beakers and flagons, together with some unusual types such as the ‘Castor Box’. The early range of beakers included vessels decorated with hunting scenes (‘Hunt Cups/Jagdbecher) and scenes portraying gladiatorial combat, various gods and phallic sybols. Later the forms and decoration on the beakers copied those produced in the Rhineland. The production of grey, oxidised, colour coated and shell tempered wares continued throughout the third but, later in the third century or early in the fourth, grey wares died out, to be replaced by colour coated versions of more utilitarian forms, together with a range of imitation samian ware types. In the fourth century a range of painted white wares was added to the repertoire. Most of the production was geared to local consumption but the colour coated wares and mortaria found markets across the province. Roman pottery production in the Lower Nene Valley continued until the end of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Session 2: Production and distribution of samian ware

A third century samian shop group from Nantes (Loire-Atlantique, France)
R. Delage1, G. Monteil2, N. Rouzeau3 & J. Pascal1
This contribution will present the various components of a third century Central Gaulish samian shop group destroyed in a fire before being distributed. Excavated in 1982 on the site of the "Ecole des Beaux-Arts" in Nantes (France), this samian assemblage contains a homogeneous group of late Central Gaulish forms, particularly plain forms and provides a unique opportunity to explore the typological and morphological characteristics of Central Gaulish samian vessels in circulation in the mid 3rd century AD.
1. Institut National de Recherches Archéologiques préventives (France)
2. University of Nottingham (Britain)
3. Ministère de la Culture (France)

A late samian dish from Surrey
Joanna Bird
The dish was discovered in a votive deposit near Guildford. It is rare for its date - it is only the second example of late 3rd to mid- 4th century Rheinzabern ware from Britain - and for its shape and the incised decoration on its flat handles. The shape and decorative style copy a late silver type, and three round dishes, probably decorated by the same hand, are known from Rheinzabern and from the nearby cemetery at Speyer. The dish also shows interesting details of how it was made.

Getting Samian Ware to Britain: routes and transport possibilities
Geoff Dannell & Allard Mees
The paper examines the route-ways and distribution channels used to market Gaulish samian-ware in Britain. It draws on the accumulating data contained in Brian Hartley & Brenda Dickinson, 'Names on Terra Sigillata', which is in the course of publication in 9 volumes by the Institute of Classical Studies, London (2008 onwards), and the data-base compiled from this information by Allard Mees and others at the Romanische-Germanisches Zentral Museum, Mainz ( This is strictly 'work-in-progress' and aimed at stimulating parallel studies in samian-ware and other classes of Roman ceramics by using distribution maps and software like ArcGIS to analyse the most likely possibilities, and to highlight anomalies and problems yet to be resolved.

Distribution of terra sigillata from La Graufesenque to the Northern Provinces
Allard W. Mees and Marinus Polak
One of the commodities transported by the North Sea and the river Rhine is Samian ware or terra sigillata. In the first century AD the northern provinces of Britannia and Belgica (including the later Germanies) were mainly provided with sigillata by the potters from the kiln site at La Graufesenque in southern Gaul. But from the early second century onwards the northern market was broken up and divided over various kiln sites situated further to the North and Northeast, including Lezoux, Rheinzabern and Trier.The huge numbers of potters' stamps included in the corpus built up by Brian Hartley and Brenda Dickinson (now being published as Names on Terra Sigillata) offer a detailed insight into the distribution of terra sigillata through time. The analysis of the available data reveals that in the first century the northern market was not as uniform as it appears at first sight. A method has been developed to trace chronological patterns in distribution maps, based on the centres of gravity of the output of individual potters.

Saturday 25th of June
Session 3: The major wares in the Rhineland and Eifel region

Pottery production in Roman Cologne
Constanze Höpken
The huge clay deposits 10 km West of Cologne were of high quality so there were ideal conditions to produce good quality pottery in large quantities.
In the 1st century immigrated potters produced vessels in italian or in gallo-roman tradition. The workshops were located near the city centre of the oppidum Ubiorum – the first known name of the settlement. The potters sold their products in the city and in the Hinterland. About the middle of the first century, when the oppidum Ubiorum became a colony, the potters moved into the suburbs. The spectrum of pottery developed more and more into a local style, combining Italian and Gallo-Roman elements.
In the 2nd Century a pottery center arose west of the city in the area of today's Rudolfplatz. The range of produced pottery comprised plain and coarse wares and especially slipped wares like the famous hunt cups and mould made objects like figures and masks. These were shipped long distance via the Rhine to Britain. But also green glazed wares were made, which is proved by kiln supports, which were used during the firing process to protect the vessels.
The decline of the pottery centre began in the end of the 2nd century and for the 3rd, there are only a few workshops known. It seems that merchants from Trier controlled the trade along the Rhine; the potters lost their economic basis and moved into the Hinterland for example to Soller and carried on the export to Britain.

Emergence of an industrial landscape. The Roman pottery centre at Urmitz-Weissenthurm
Sibylle Friedrich
Archaeological finds over the last 150 years show that Weissenthurm was an important production centre for ceramics. The pottery industry was based on the clay deposits at Kärlich that are still in use today. Production of coarse ware dishes in the Urmitz-Weissenthurm area started in the early 2nd Ccentury. The volume of production and the distribution of the ware along the Lower and Upper Germanic Limes suggest the heyday of this hard-baked ware was in the first half of the 3rd century. The middle of the 3rd century saw the drastic disappearance of the military markets, but rather than break down production apparently shifted to civilian territory. The latest evidence for the industry comes from finds in the Lorraine area, Luxembourg and Switzerland, which may date to the first half of the 4th century.
The current analysis of the excavation of 1974/75 from the Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, Abteilung Archäologische Denkmalpflege, Amt Koblenz, occupies a central position in the study of early pottery production in the north of Rhineland-Palatinate. The project will explore one of the oldest industries in the region, and contributes to a research project on "The development of an industrial landscape – The ancient quarry and mining district between the Eifel and Rhine" at the Vulkanologie, Archäologie und Technikgeschichte – Mayen" of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseums at Mainz.

The latest Roman pottery production at Mayen/Eifel (Germany). Archaeological findings
and scientific analysis results.
Dr. Lutz Grunwald
In 1986/87 an archaeological excavation took place in the centre of the town of Mayen. In the documented layers the traces of 51 pit-houses are of especially great interest. The first results concerning the excavation of 1986/87 are surprising: The pit-houses can be dated from the 5th to the 8th/9th century. Pottery waste indicates the production of ceramics during the 5th century in the neighbourhood. The assessment of this excavation started in November 2007 as an interdisciplinary project at the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz and is integrated in the "Forschungsbereich Vulkanologie, Archäologie und Technikgeschichte" in Mayen. As the long-distance export of the Mayen ware is one of the main aspects of the project, scientific analysis of the composition of the Mayen ceramics has been carried out at the University of Mainz. Material from15 kilns excavated at Mayen has been examined. The mineralogical results are very expressive. It is now possible to identify Mayen ware from the European export-regions clearly as products manufactured in Mayen. During this lecture new aspects of the Roman pottery production in the Mayen area and the first results of the scientific analysis of Mayen ware will be shown.

Session 4: Pottery production in the Batavian and Tungrian civitates and
pottery consumption in the Dutch river area

Fluctuations in Roman pottery production in Nijmegen
Harry van Enckevort, Elly N.A. Heirbaut, Joep Hendriks
During the last few decades, remains of Roman pottery production were found at several places within the borders of modern Nijmegen. The kilns and the production waste can be placed in both (semi-)military and civil contexts. The oldest products can be dated to 19-12 B.C., the more recent one to around AD 200. When the dated products are placed in a chronological order we can say that the pottery production in Nijmegen is subject to some kind of fluctuations.

Early Roman pottery production in the civitas Tungrorum: towards an integrated approach
Barbara BORGERS (VrijeUniversiteitBrussel), Marc DE BIE (VrijeUniversiteitBrussel), Patrick DEGRYSE
(KatholiekeUniversiteit Leuven), Patrick S. QUINN (University College London)
The development of the early Roman settlements in the civitas Tungrorum (from AD 50 onwards) is essentially one of discontinuity. Few sites were re-occupied after Caesar’s intervention, which had laid the foundation for more fundamental changes in the settlement pattern, and a move to greater nucleation; a widespread expansion of urbanism developed under Roman rule. For example, Tongeren was founded as the caput civitatis in the late first century BC/early first century AD, and laid out according to a Roman plan. Its inhabitants integrated quickly, as witnessed by the gradual development of native domestic structures into Roman style urban residences. Also, the rural settlements in the civitas appear to be new foundations, reflecting a high level of organization, as witnessed by their organized and spatially confined settings with a functional division into living areas, workshops and agricultural zones.
From the detailed assessment of the physical evidence from five pottery production sites in the civitas Tungrorum, two points can be drawn.
In the first instance, the early Roman period is characterised by distinct changes in ceramic morphology and decoration. During the first centuries AD, stylistic diversification is accompanied by the introduction of new supra-regional pottery types thought to have played a central role in exchange, the negotiation of identity and the emergence of social inequality. The stylistic diversification suggests that the first potters in the civitas, might have migrated from southern Gaul, whilst by the later Flavian period, they seem to have migrated from the camps along the Rhine limes (or they had been in contact with potters working for the soldiers and/or veteran clients).
The second point to be drawn is that large nucleated pottery industries, producing Roman style pottery, developed at the pottery production sites at Vervoz and Tienen. The production debris recovered from both sites, indicates separation of the production of coarse wares and fine wares, showing a move towards the intensification of pottery production. The production debris at the two aforementioned sites presents a picture of an expanding industry, specialising in the production of tableware. However, for the sites at Kontich and Grobbendonkin in the northern Campine region, it appears that the number of operating production units has been underestimated. In addition to the discovered and discussed kilns, two other kilns can be counted. At both early Roman sites, the dump of production debris suggests a further pottery kiln in the immediate vicinity of the recorded kiln. What is more, the production debris recovered from these sites indicates some separation of the production of coarse and fine wares, suggesting a move towards the intensification and specialisation of pottery production.
The physical evidence at the sites in the civitas Tungrorum demonstrates an active and changing Roman pottery industry, making it an ideal location to investigate the development of early Roman pottery production technologies on a micro-scale. Since we know little about how these new types were integrated in local pottery traditions, and whether their introduction represents a change in the contexts of production or use, an approach has been adopted which uses a combination of traditional macroscopic ceramic analysis with thin section petrography and ICP-OES analysis. As the results from the five sites from the civitas Tungrorum show, the detailed examination of ceramic technology offers a means to explore the compositional variability within and between sites, providing insights into a diversity of social and technological practices within the Early Roman cultural tradition on the one hand, and the movement of artefacts and people within the civitas Tungrorum on the other.

A chronology of late-Roman ceramics imported to the Dutch River Area:
The case of Wijk bij Duurstede-De Geer

Stijn Heeren Vrije Universiteit (Amsterdam). NWO-funded Odyssee-programme Dorestad Vicus Famosus
In the modern Wijk bij Duurstede, the Netherlands, the medieval emporium Dorestad, called a Vicus Famosus by contemporaries, was situated. In the northern periphery of Dorestad lies the site De Geer, which is older than Dorestad itself. In contrast to Dorestad, which to our knowledge of today rose very quickly from nowhere into the emporium par excellence in half a century (late 7th century), the De Geer site was a secondary centre or a rural settlement, already inhabited for ages (2nd to 9th century continuously).
In this contribution, I will not discuss the Early Middle Ages, but concentrate on the crucial period just before, the Late Roman period. In the Netherlands, hardly any sites of the Late Roman period are known and well published. I will isolate some well dated assemblages at De Geer, containing ceramics from the late 3rd to 5th centuries. Coin-dates, c14-samples and dendrochronological dates allow quite certain dates in some cases. The discussion of these assemblages will focus on the emergence and disappearance of the various imported wares and their relative weight when compared to the locally manufactured handmade wares.
In addition to the well recognisable shell-gritted handmade wares, coarse wares from Urmitz-Weissenthurm, colour coated beakers, red painted dishes, medium sized amphorae and mortaria from the group called Lower Moselle by Julie van Kerckhove are present in late 3rd century contexts. In the fourth century, the Chenet 342-type terra nigra like wares emerge, while the later 4th and early 5th century see a rise in late Samian (Argonnen) wares and coarse wares from the Eifel, notably from Mayen.

Session 5: Pottery consumption in Britain and methodology in pottery studies

Trends in the presence of amphorae at sites in Roman Britain
Steve Willis
This paper develops some of the themes I looked at in the paper on amphorae that I gave at the 2009 annual conference of the Study Group at Chichester. In particular this contribution will focus upon patterns of distribution and consumption at sites and the degree to which this was related to site status, identity and type. Much new data is available from publications and so the opportunity arises for synthetic analysis. Broad trends emerging from the study of a range of sites is presented, together with some case studies from specific sites. Whilst trends in Britain may differ in certain significant respects from those seen in other provinces the paper provides an opportunity for the international audience to note some patterns from Britain which they may gauge against the assemblages from their regions. Some methodological and recording aspects will be considered, as well as prospective future research questions.

Sub-Roman pottery production in South-eastern Britain
Malcolm Lyne
This paper seeks to show how the recent recognition that a full monetary economy may have continued to operate in parts of Britain well into the second quarter of the 5th century may change our perception of early 5th century material culture in South-East Britain from one leaving very few traces in the archaeological record to one which is an extension of that previously thought to be restricted to the period c.AD.370-410 but which can now be seen to span the period c.AD.370-430/40. It is suggested that Romano-British style pottery production continued in some areas until the mid-5th century, albeit on a much smaller scale than previously.

Methodologies shedding light on the deposition of Roman pottery Case Studies
from the Lincolnshire Wolds
Emma Jackson
Pottery is a versatile archaeological resource which allows a variety of analytical methodologies to be employed to explore what pottery sherds can tell us of past society and past processes. This paper examines two aspects: the data and results attained from quantification and volumetric analysis of assemblages, with close consideration of context type and space. Pottery assemblages recovered during fieldwalking and excavation at three sites with Roman occupation in Lincolnshire form the subject material. The methodologies have high potential; the utility of volumetric study should be clear but is arguably undervalued. Quantification is obviously a fundamental and now routine part in all archaeological data processing yet the basic elements such as counts, weights, sherd measurements and condition are rarely used to their full potential or as a key means towards the interpretation of a site’s character and use: studies such as that outlined here should go some way to demonstrating to those writing-up sites, of the insight that can be forthcoming from such analyses. Volumetric site data methodology was pioneered around thirty years ago yet to date has only been systematically used on a handful of sites in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire with only one of these being published so far. However, it can clearly be employed successfully to identify patterns within the archaeological material recovered and to distil what this may impart about site use and development to those studying pottery, finds, site use and formation.

Roman pottery studies in Britain: current practice and future strategies Jane Evans
Jane Evans
The Study Group for Roman Pottery has recently produced a Research Strategy and Updated Agenda for the Study of Roman Pottery in Britain (Rob Perrin, September 2010), which will be published later this year. This compliments a number of other recent surveys; of samian studies in Britain (Gwladys Monteil and Louise Rayner, May 2010), post-Roman ceramic studies in Britain (Anne Irving, forthcoming), and more recently, of archaeological specialists in general (Kenneth Aitchison, in progress). Our Research Strategy and Updated Agenda covers both strategic research and study aims, focusing on the national agenda for Britain, and also the practical infrastructure essential to achieve our strategic ends (judged by the contribution our studies make to researching, protecting and promoting our Roman heritage). It draws together the views of both Roman pottery specialists and the wider heritage sector, including local government archaeologists, university archaeological departments, archaeological journals, museums and commercial/contracting archaeological organisations. Holding the SGRP annual conference in Amsterdam provides the ideal opportunity to share the key results more widely. To what extent does our approach to Roman pottery studies overlap with, or differ from approaches used elsewhere‌ Given the presence of an international audience, it is hoped that this subject will form the subject of some lively and informative discussion during the conference.

An update on the Kilns digitization Project (TBC)

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