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The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

Hand specimen picture panel
Thin section picture panel


Appendix 1: Keywords and Definitions
Appendix 2: Physical Layout of Sherds Housed in the NRFRC


Caerleon Fabrics

Four separate surface treaments which utilised essentially the same clay body are here defined as Oxidised, Red-slipped, White-slipped and Colour-coated ware. Mortaria were produced with oxidised, red-slipped and white-slipped surfaces, while colourcoated wares include beakers, roughcast beakers and bowls. Although production took place from the 1st century, only the 2nd century fabrics are likely to have had a more than strictly local distribution (K Hartley, pers comm).

General appearance

The body colour of all variants is usually orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8, 5YR 7/8), or occasionally redder (10R 5/6). Sherds are hard with a smooth fracture and smooth feel. The fabric deteriorates rapidly in unfavourable soil conditions once the slip has abraded.

Hand specimen

Fabric variants are united by a fine, silty micaceous matrix, containing primarily silver (but some gold) mica, with principal inclusions of fine quartz and iron-rich grains. Mortaria are characterised by abundant, angular milky quartz (many polycrystalline) trituration grits. Trituration grits are present on our samples of CAR OX, but not CAR WS or RS, although they are thought to be the same for all surface treatments. The Caerleon trituration grits are similar to those seen on Holt mortaria, but on our particular sample the Caerleon ones are smaller and more densely packed than for Holt.

Thin section

Two samples from this group were examined in thin section, an oxidised and colour-coated one. Their fabrics are readily characterised by a fine intensely micaceous clay containing abundant silt-sized quartz and muscovite and brown mica. Also common are a variety of ferruginous pellets, normally <0.5mm, although clay pellets may be larger. Sparse inclusions of larger quartz (some polycrystalline) and small flint fragments are also present. Trituration grits of monocrystalline and polycrystalline quartz typically measure between 1.0-2.0mm.


Pottery waste associated with a kiln is known approximately two to three kilometres north-east of Caerleon. The overall picture from south Wales suggests that there may have been localised production of the red-slipped mortaria elsewhere in the region (K Hartley, pers comm).


National Museum of Wales


National Museum of Wales


Boon, G C, 1966 Legionary ware at Caerleon, Archaeol Cambrensis 115, 45–66

Greep, S J, 1986 The coarse pottery, in The legionary fortress baths at Caerleon 2. The finds (J D Zienkiewicz), 50–96

Hartley, K F, 1993a The mortaria, in Report on the excavations at Usk 1965–1976. The Roman pottery (ed W H Manning), 389–425

Nash-Williams, V E, 1932 The Roman legionary fortress at Caerleon in Monmouthshire. Report on the excavations carried out in the Prysg Field, 1927–9. Part III, Archaeol Cambrensis 87, 265–349

Webster, P V, 1992 Roman pottery in south-east Wales: an introduction, J Roman Pottery Stud 5, 111–21

Caerleon Colour-coated ware (CAR CC)

Four samples

General appearance

Slip colour varies from red-brown (10R 5/8) to orange-brown (2.5YR 5/6, 5YR 6/8) and is often patchy with run marks evident.

Hand specimen

The inclusion suite varies in both size and sorting. At best little more than silt-grade material with sparse mica and black iron-rich grains (<0.1mm) is visible (Plate 170). In coarser examples, there is a scatter of larger quartz, <0.2mm or occasionally 0.5mm, and the iron-rich grains may measure up to 1.5mm. Roughcasting, when it occurs, is of clay particles c 1.0mm in size.

Plate 170: Fresh sherd break of CAR CC (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 170: Fresh sherd break of CAR CC (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 170.1: Photomicrograph of CAR CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 170.1: Photomicrograph of CAR CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)