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Samian Pottery in Britain: Exploring its Distribution and Archaeological Potential

Willis, Steven (1998) Samian Pottery in Britain: Exploring its Distribution and Archaeological Potential. Archaeological Journal, 155 (1). pp. 82-133. ISSN 0066-5983. (doi:10.1080/00665983.1998.11078847) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:46676)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided.
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This paper presents some of the results of an English Heritage funded study of the distribution of samian pottery (Terra Sigillata). It aims to highlight the value of samian pottery as a resource for exploring a range of archaeological questions beyond its essential role in providing dating evidence. The work to date has comprised a pilot study designed to assemble an initial database of stratified samian groups, to test methodologies and to explore the character of samian distribution. Some substantive patterns identified from the database are reproduced here and discussed. The opportunity is also taken to clarify baseline trends in the occurrence of samian within Roman pottery assemblages, and to place patterns in the incidence of this ware within the wider context of Roman Britain. A number of other aspects of archaeological value, for instance, the nature of samian from rural sites and the potential use of samian in ritual actions, are also evaluated. A written report and (hardcopy) database were produced in 1997 (Willis 1997b), which presented the results of phase 1 of the survey, with approximately 50 copies circulated for comment. The middle section of the present paper draws on this report. It is hoped that in due course the database will be accessible to all potential users (including excavators, students, curators and academics), for the comparison of samian assemblages from different sites. The database should establish whether there are ‘normal patterns’ of samian occurrence/supply, by region, time, and site type, against which individual site assemblages may be compared.

The focus of the pilot study, being funded by English Heritage, has been upon sites within England. However, evidence from sites in Wales and Scotland, both military and civilian, has equal relevance constituting important comparative data. Samian assemblages from these parts of Britain are hence included in the current discussion. Considering the larger canvas, samian work in Britain is part of an international context of study, of what was a widely distributed and imitated material. Specialists in Britain are closely networked with workers elsewhere in western Europe. One of the most fruitful aspects of this liaison is the potential for identifying similarities and differences in the incidence of samian from region to region. It is hoped that the present paper, identifying trends in the British evidence, can contribute to inter-provincial comparisons.

This paper has four principal sections. First, the background to the project is outlined, with previous quantitative and comparative studies of samian noted. The second section deals with broad aspects of samian distribution, considering its status during the Roman era, its geographic incidence and its occurrence as a component of pottery groups. Trends in the occurrence of samian types are then examined, while in the final components several areas of special interest are explored. The concluding sections emphasize the main findings and outline the prospects for future work; the manner in which samian information is published in reports is also considered.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/00665983.1998.11078847
Subjects: C Auxiliary Sciences of History > C Auxiliary sciences of history (General)
C Auxiliary Sciences of History > CC Archaeology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Steven Willis
Date Deposited: 14 Jan 2015 12:07 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Dec 2022 10:04 UTC
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