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The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

Hand specimen picture panel
Thin section picture panel

References

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

 

Italian White ware (ITA WH)

Single sample

This fabric refers only to mortaria.

General appearance

Our sample is buff-pink (5YR 7/3) with buff (7.5YR 7/3) surfaces, although it is discoloured brown in part. It is very hard with a hackly fracture and rough surfaces. The typical vessel imported into Britain is large and squat, with a broad flange, and is characteristically heavy in weight.

Hand specimen

The fabric is characterised by diverse, ill-sorted inclusions, which are abundant in aggregate and range in size from 0.2–4.0mm, although most do not exceed 2.0mm. The initial impression is of mixed rock inclusions – red-brown, red and orange – with black accessory minerals and gold mica. Detailed examination reveals that accessory minerals, feldspar and heterogeneous igneous rocks, frequently red or red-brown and both coarse and fine in texture, are all common. Gold mica is commonly visible on the surface, but sparse in the break (<0.5mm).

Trituration grits belong to the same range of inclusions, with red igneous and other rock inclusions most common, followed by accessory minerals and feldspar. Ranging in size between 0.5–4.5mm, although usually 1.0–3.5mm, they densely cover the lower portion of the vessel. The surface glistens with gold mica (to c 0.5mm), while feldspar and accessory minerals are somewhat less common.

Thin section

Two sections were made from this sample, and the differences in them demonstrate the coarse, variably mixed nature of the fabric. It is a calcareous clay, containing ill-sorted subangular grains of sanidine feldspar, volcanic lava fragments, pyroxene, tuff and quartz up to 3.0mm. A single large grain of a pyroxene-rich rock is also present. Silt-grade material is common, and is composed largely of quartz, feldspar and white mica. The two samples differ most in the quantity of microfossils, and the ratio between quartz and pyroxene.

Source

Although no kilns have been identified at present, vessel distribution and more importantly the distinct petrology point to a source in a volcanic region of either central or southern Italy. A similar vessel, although lacking the calcareous inclusions, has been described by Williams, and his conclusions reinforce a probable source within the region of Etruria, Latium or Campania (Williams 1993, 424).

Donor

Department of Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities, The British Museum

Museum

National Museum of Wales

References

Bloch, H, 1937 (1938) I bolli laterizi e la storia edilizia romana, Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica 65, 83–187

Hartley, K F, 1973a La diffusion des mortiers, tuiles et autres produits en provenance des fabriques italiennes, Cahiers d’Archéologie Subaquatique 2, 49–60

Hartley, K F, 1973b The marketing and distribution of mortaria, in Current research in Romano-British coarse pottery (ed A P Detsicas), CBA Res Rep 10, 39–51

Jefferson Loane, H, 1938 Industry and commerce of the city of Rome (50BC–200AD), Baltimore

Tapio, H, 1975 Organization of the Roman brick production in the first and second centuries AD, Dissertationes Humanarum Litterarum 5, Helsinki

Williams, D F, 1993 The petrology of mortarium fabrics 5, 6, 11 and 13, in Report on the excavations at Usk 1965–1976. The Roman pottery (ed W H Manning), 424–5

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

Plate 53a: Fresh sherd break of ITA WH (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 53a: Fresh sherd break of ITA WH (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 53b: Trituration grits on ITA WH (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 53b: Trituration grits on ITA WH (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 53.1: Photomicrograph of ITA WH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 53.1: Photomicrograph of ITA WH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

Plate 53.2: Photomicrograph of ITA WH (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 53.2: Photomicrograph of ITA WH (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm)


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