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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


Dales Shelly ware (DAL SH)

Two samples

The category includes only the shelly fabric and not the other variants producing a similar cooking pot form and known as Dales-type.

General appearance

This is a dark-coloured fabric, grey (at least 4/0) or red-brown (5YR 3/3) with a black surface. It is hard with a hackly fracture and a harsh surface. Cooking pots with a distinctive lid-locating lip to the rim, dishes and lids were produced in this fabric (Rigby & Stead 1976a, fig 93). While the vessel body was handmade, a wheel of some type was used in forming the rim (Loughlin 1977, 87).

Hand specimen

Overall the inclusions are ill sorted. Both rounded and subrounded quartz (mostly 0.1–0.2mm but to 0.5mm) and fossil shell fragments (mostly 1.0–2.0mm but to 5.0mm) are common. Other inclusions are sparse, with red-brown iron-rich grains (0.1–0.7mm) and fine silver mica both present.

Mr John Cooper has identified oyster shell, naturally occurring in the clay, together with a few sand and ?burnt-out wood or vegetable fibres.

Thin section

A silty clay containing common muscovite mica is seen in thin section. Larger distinctive inclusions consist of abundant ill-sorted fossil shell (to c 4.5 but normally <1.0mm), common subrounded or rounded quartz (to 0.5mm, normally <0.3mm) and sparse microfossils. Opaques are common, to c <0.5mm, with those in the larger range frequently quartz rich. Recurring, although never common, in the larger size ranges are polycrystalline quartz, flint, siltstone (sometimes micaceous), fine-grained sandstone, clay pellets, quartzite and limestone.


Unlike Dales-type ware, for which kilns have been located, Dales ware was probably made in bonfire kilns, but there is no evidence remaining. On the basis of petrological analysis, Loughlin (1977, 101–3) has suggested that the most probable clay source is in north Lincolnshire, at the junction of the Keuper marl and Rhaetic beds, with production likely at the ‘‘Cliff’ between Burton Stather and Alkborough villages (near Trent Falls).’


Lincoln City and County Museum


Lincoln City and County Museum; Scunthorpe Museum and Art Gallery; Yorkshire Museum, York


Firmin, R J, 1991 The significance of anhydrite in pottery as exemplified by Romano-British Dales ware, J Roman Pottery Stud 4, 45–50

Gillam, J P, 1951 Dales ware: a distinctive Romano-British cooking-pot, Antiq J 31, 154–64

Gregory, A K, with a contribution by Swan, V G, 1996 Romano-British pottery (eds J R Samuels & J May), in Dragonby. Report on excavations at an Iron Age and Romano-British settlement in north Lincolnshire (J May), Oxbow Monogr 61, 513–85

Loughlin, N, 1977 Dales ware: a contribution to the study of Roman coarse pottery, in Pottery and commerce. Characterization and trade in Roman and later ceramics (ed D P S Peacock), 35–84

Rigby, V, & Stead I, 1976a Dales ware, in Excavations at Winterton Roman villa and other Roman sites in north Lincolnshire, 1958–1967 (I Stead), 189–90

See the related record on the Atlas of Roman Pottery on the Potsherd website

Plate 128: Fresh sherd break of DAL SH (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 128: Fresh sherd break of DAL SH (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 128.1: Photomicrograph of DAL SH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 128.1: Photomicrograph of DAL SH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

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