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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


Gaulish Fabrics

A large number of fabric variants were produced in Gaul, and two examples are included here: additional research on the Gaulish fabrics occurring in Britain will undoubtedly increase the repertoire required in a national collection. The two fine variants included here are very similar petrologically, and their distinction relies somewhat on form criteria. Coarser variants with inclusions frequently ranging to 1.5mm are also known, and samples from a variety of kiln sites in southern France are available in the reference collection (coded as (Other) Gaulish amphorae), although they are not described here.

Gaulish amphorae 1 (GAL AM 1)

Eight samples

The group includes numerous production sites in southern France that manufactured flat bottomed amphorae belonging to Gauloise forms 1–5 (including Peacock & Williams Classes 27–30). Despite the wide range of variability in this fabric, it is unified both by colour and range of inclusions.

General appearance

Typically a pale brown (10YR 7/2, 10YR 7/4–6/4, 7.5YR 7/4) fabric, although it may be lighter (7.5YR 8/4) or slightly more orange (5YR 7/8, 7.5YR 7/6) to pink (2.5YR 7/6). External surfaces are frequently buff (7.5YR 8/4–7/4, 10YR 8/3), sometimes with a green (2.5Y 8/3) tinge. A hard fabric, the fracture is normally smooth to irregular, while the surfaces are rough.

Hand specimen

This is a fine fabric with a large degree of variability in size (<0.1–0.3–0.5mm) and, to a certain extent, proportions of inclusions. Normally the matrix is silty with varying amounts of fine silver and less gold mica. Larger inclusions, ill sorted and sparse, include quartz/feldspar, red, red-brown and brown argillaceous fragments, comprising both clay pellets and metamorphic rocks, and limestone. Limestone (sometimes erupting the surface) and argillaceous inclusions particularly occur in the larger size range and may measure up to c 2.0–3.0mm, but even these more likely to be <1.0mm. Finally, a scatter of silt-sized multi-coloured iron-rich inclusions is normal.

Thin section

Our sample comprises an exceptionally fine, micaceous (muscovite and biotite) clay containing sparse silt-grade material of quartz and opaques, and common limestone. Larger grains, up to c 0.3mm, are sparse limestone, and sparse to rare quartz (including polycrystalline grains), quartz-mica schist, feldspar, clay pellets and microfossils. Rarely limestone occurs up to 1.0mm.


The industry is well documented from numerous kilns in Gallia Narbonensis (Laubenheimer 1985).


Museum of London; CNRS Centre de Spectrométrie Nucléaire et de Spectrométrie de Mass, Orsay (France)


Second in quantity only to Dressel 20, most British museums with archaeological collections will house examples of Gaulish amphorae. Several with large assemblages include Colchester Museums; Museum of London; York Archaeological Trust; Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, Lyon (France); Musée Archéologique des Sallèles-d’Aude (France); Musée des Antiquités Nationales, Saint-Germain-en-Laye (France)


Dangréaux, B, & Desbat, A, 1988 Les amphores du dépotoir Flavien de Bas-de-Loyasse à Lyon, Gallia 45, 115–53

Davies, B J, Richardson, B, & Tomber, R S, 1994 The archaeology of Roman London 5. A dated corpus of early Roman pottery from the City of London, CBA Res Rep 98

Laubenheimer, F, 1985 La production des amphores en Gaule narbonnaise sous le Haut Empire, Centre de Recherches d’Histoire Ancienne 66, Paris

Laubenheimer, F, 1989 Les amphores gauloises sous l’Empire: recherches nouvelles sur leur production et leur chronologie, in Amphores romaines et histoire économique: dix ans de recherche, Collection de l’Ecole Française de Rome 114, 105–38, Rome

Laubenheimer, F, Fontes, P, Leblanc, J, Dodinet, M, Lacharme, Y, Lleres, J, & Widemann, F, 1981 Analyse par activation neutronique d’amphores gallo-romaines mise en évidence d’exportations aux frontières de l’empire, Revue d’Archéométrie 3, 155–75

Laubenheimer, F, Serneels, V, & Perron d’Arc, M, 1990 Sallèles d’Aude. Un complexe de potiers gallo-romain: le quartier artisanal, Documents d’Archéologie Française 26, Paris

Laubenheimer, F, & Widemann, F, 1977 L’atelier d’amphores de Corneilhan (Hérault), Revue d’Archéométrie 1, 59–82

Laubenheimer, F, Widemann, F, Fontes, P, & Leblanc, J, 1979 Gallo-Roman amphora workshops in the lower Rhone area. First neutron activation analysis approach, XIXth Symposium on Archaeometry and Archaeological Prospection, 57–71

Peacock, D P S, 1978 The Rhine and the problem of Gaulish wine in Roman Britain, in Roman shipping and trade: Britain and the Rhine provinces (eds J du Plat Taylor & H Cleere), CBA Res Rep 24, 49–51

Pélichet, E, 1946 A propos des amphores romaines trouvées à Nyon, Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte 8, 189–209

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

Plate 69: Fresh sherd break of GAL AM 1 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 69: Fresh sherd break of GAL AM 1 (width of field 24 mm)