of Roman Pottery Studies
Vol 4, 1991 pages 93-95
J R Perrin
750 Johnson, C, 'Late Iron Age and
Roman Age', in Moss-Eccardt, J, 'Archaeological
investigations in the Letchworth Area, 1958-74', Proc
Cambridgeshire Archaeol Soc, Vol. 77, 1988, (35-103), 84-7.
Selected pottery from two sites in Letchworth and one in Baldock.
The classification uses fabrics 2A, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 15, 15A,
20, 27 and 42 as described in Stead, I & Rigby, V, Baldock
Excavations, 1968-72, (Britannia Monograph Series No. 7,
1986). There is some late pre-Roman Iron Age material, and there
are notes on the samian by H Pengelly.
Location: Letchworth Museum?
751 Niblett, R, 'Evidence for the Antonine
Fire at Verulamium from the Wheelers' excavation', Hertfordshire
Archaeol, Vol. 9, 1983/86, 29-78.
This is an extremely important and useful article, since it
lists all the evidence relating to the Antonine fire, much of it
previously unpublished. The two main results are "that the
Wheelers tended to date their 2nd century houses too
early", and "that many more of these houses overlay
earlier masonry structure than appears from the published
Niblett suggests that the dates are too early because "both
samian and coins tended to have longer survival life than the
Wheelers allowed for" and were "considerably older
than the various layers in which they were found". She also
states that "on site after site early 2nd century samian is
found with coarse pottery dating from c140-l80. This is not
really surprising since the best table ware is likely to have
had a longer table life than the coarse kitchen wares, but it
was not a point that was considered in the 1930s
This assumption of the extra potential of samian to 'survive
in use' is one which would be wholeheartedly supported by many
pottery researchers. Indeed Niblett shows that Verulamium
provides sound evidence for the phenomenon, and this could
have far-reaching implications for the dating of many sites.
There is a need, however, to be certain of the dating of the
coarse wares upon which the theory is based: often that dating
is itself dependent on the dating of associated samian and
coins. At what point can one be certain that the samian is
contemporary, and not either surviving or residual? In spite of
the above-quoted view of the likely survival of earlier samian,
in Niblett's assessment of the dating at Verulamium there is
no suggestion that the samian associated with the 'Antonine'
fire itself contained a high proportion of survivals, which by
implication could therefore push the date of the fire rather
later than AD 155 (150-160). Space precludes a detailed
discussion of these aspects here, but the article does highlight
the need to re-examine the origins of some established pottery
dates. The evidence for the building sequences and the dating of
the Antonine fire are summarised in two tables.
|| Each of
the buildings uncovered by the Wheelers is described in detail
(pp33-57) and the catalogue of dating evidence follows this
sequence (pp60-78). The catalogue lists in detail the pottery
and coins from each of the major layers and features mentioned
in the discussion. Many parallels are cited from the large
amount of pottery published by Frere. 162 sherds are illustrated
(including six samian pieces with notes by S Greep; also
possible kilns are noted).
: In many ways the catalogue is the key to the
article as a whole, and it is therefore disappointing to have to
note many inconsistencies and errors. Some of the terminology
for both fabrics and forms is at fault. For example, 53 is not
Rhenish; 5, 139 and 140 are not beakers; and 119 is a bowl, not
an 'open dish' (can a dish be closed?). Many of the Frere
parallels are not at all similar (e.g. 64, 74, 81, 88, 93, 96,
97, 112 and 124). Some are so far out as to suggest mis-numbering,
or that the wrong vessel has been drawn or quoted. Not all of
the groups of pottery selected and illustrated are noted in the
relevant place in the text (e.g. 32-6, 48-54, 58-65, 79-84,
87-105 and 125-139). 87 and 156 are missed off the figure
captions. 85-6 are from building 9, and not 8 as noted in the
text on page 47. The catalogue/illustration order of 119 and 120
is reversed. There are two '32's (page 64); the first is in
fact not illustrated. 151 is not really akin to the Nene Valley
vessels quoted: In any case the latter are in cream ware. 13 is
surely in BB1 and of the late 2nd century at the earliest,
whereas the Frere parallel for it is in BB2, and it is termed
BB2 in the text (p36). 14 appears twice in the same discussion
p36, in which 'flanged bowls in BB2' are noted.
Some of the mistakes (and there are others) are
obviously due to poor proof-reading, or are typographical
errors. Others are somewhat more disturbing, and as a result the
evidence and its implications must be treated with care. Anyone
seriously researching this period or site would be advised to
handle the material first-hand.
: It is a pity that the illustrated vessels could not
have been denoted with bold type at the beginning of each
catalogue entry. Some were difficult to find, and they are not
strictly in numerical order.
Despite these problems Mrs Niblett is to be
congratulated for a painstaking piece of work, which was long
752 Niblett, R, comments on pottery in Montagu-Puckle, F
H G & Niblett, R, 'Observations on the south-east side of
the Basilica at Verulamium', Hertfordshire Archaeol Vol.
9, 1983/86, 178-82.
wbf/mjc/AD 30-70, later 4th
Pottery is mentioned only in the description of the structural
sequence: "...consisted of fragments from several storage
jars and cooking pots in local coarse ware, all of which date
from within the bracket of cAD 30-70" "...a small
quantity of later 4th century, unstratified, pottery was
recovered from the site".
753 Greep, S J, 'The Samian Ware', in entry no. 752,
180 & 182. wbf/mjc/lst
Three samian vessels from early levels were noted during the
watching brief in the Basilica area. All are illustrated.