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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


La Madeleine samian (MAD SA)

Four samples

General appearance

Our samples are red-brown (10R 5/8) with slightly darker (10R 4/8) lustrous slip. They are hard with a smooth fracture and smooth, often soapy feel.

Hand specimen

A wide range of variation can be seen in the La Madeleine products, but all are fine (<0.1mm) with generally well-sorted inclusions. Sherds stamped by Festus and Sabellus are dominated by abundant limestone, occasionally up to 0.2mm, with sparse fine silver mica, black iron-rich grains (0.1–0.2mm) and occasional angular fragments of clay pellets up to 0.7mm. In the sherd stamped by Montanus (Plate 26), quartz is the dominant inclusion (occasionally to 0.2mm), but limestone – including some microfossils – is common (0.1–0.2mm), while fine mica (mostly silver but some gold) and red-brown iron-rich grains (0.2–0.5mm) are sparse. In the sherd stamped by Amabilis all inclusions are sparse and normally <0.1mm: black and sometimes red iron-rich grains, silver mica, quartz (occasionally to 0.2mm), and red clay pellets (to 1.2mm) can be identified.

Thin section

The sectioned sherd belongs to that stamped by Montanus. It is an isotropic calcareous clay with silt-sized inclusions, comprising common to abundant rounded limestone, less quartz and irregular opaques. The clay is slightly micaceous with both muscovite and brown mica identified. Within this range of inclusions, rare larger grains measuring 0.1–0.5mm are present. No microfossils are visible in thin section, but the slide contains numerous voids.


Amabilis, Festus, Montanus, Sabellus


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


Colchester Archaeological Trust (small but representative group); Museum of London (published in Bemmann 1984–5); South Shields Roman Fort Museum (published in Dore & Gillam 1979); Musée Lorrain, Nancy (France)


Bemmann, H, 1984–5 Eine neue Ware des Virtus von La Madeleine, Saalburg Jahrbuch 40–1, 5–27

Bémont, C, & Jacob, J-P (eds), 1986 La terre sigillée gallo-romaine. Lieux de production du Haut Empire: implantations, produits, relations, Documents d’Archéologie Française 6, Paris

Dore, J, & Gillam, J P, 1979 The Roman fort at South Shields, excavations 1875–1975, Soc Antiq Newcastle upon Tyne Monogr 1

Haalebos, J-K, 1977 Zwammerdam – Nigrum Pullum, Cingula 3, Amsterdam

Ricken, H, 1934a Die Bilderschüsseln der Kastelle Saalburg und Zugmantel, Saalburg Jahrbuch 8, 130–82

Wild, F, 1975 Samian ware, in Birrens (Blatobulgium) (A S Robertson), 170–1

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

Plate 26: Fresh sherd break of MAD SA (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 26: Fresh sherd break of MAD SA (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 26.1: Photomicrograph of MAD SA (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 26.1: Photomicrograph of MAD SA (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)