Although a diverse range of material, including Severn Valley ware, was produced at Shepton Mallet, only the mortaria are included in this collection – and given their somewhat limited distribution – primarily to highlight the similarity between Shepton Mallet and Caerleon products.
The single example is orange-brown (5YR 7/8) with duller and lighter (7.5YR 7/6) surfaces and a grey-brown (10YR 7/3) core. It is soft with a smooth fracture and a harsh/powdery feel. More generally the fabric is described as ‘slightly micaceous, fairly fine textured, bright orange-brown to brown fabric, sometimes with darker brown core’ (Hartley 1991a, 192, Fabric FB23). None of the slip survives on this example, but usually: ‘a thick, dull brown to red-brown slip covers the whole of the exterior, the rim and the upper part of the inside’ (ibid)
Our example has abundant silt-sized quartz in a sparsely micaceous matrix containing fine silver mica. Also present are sparse brown or matrix-coloured clay pellets or iron-rich inclusions ranging up to 1.5mm. The trituration grits generally measure 2.0–3.0mm and comprise abundant well-sorted white quartz (much of it polycrystalline), common dark rock fragments (probably sandstone) and sparse fine-grained black rocks. Typically, it is distinctively fine and micaceous with characteristic trituration grits.
A fine silty clay composed of well-sorted quartz and rare feldspar, with rare to common biotite and muscovite mica can be seen. Larger inclusions are uncommon, but quartz-rich clay pellets and opaques to c 1.0mm are present, as are rare grains of quartz to c 0.3mm. Only one trituration grit – of polycrystalline quartz – is extant in thin section (3.9mm).
Kilns at Shepton Mallet have provided evidence for the production of these mortaria (Hartley 1991a, 192).
Somerset County Museum, Taunton
Roman Baths Museum, Bath; Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; Somerset County Museum, Taunton
Hartley, K F, 1991a Mortaria, in Roman finds from Exeter (N Holbrook & P T Bidwell), Exeter Archaeol Rep 4, 189–215
Leach, P, & Evans, C J, 2001 Excavation of a Romano-British roadside settlement in Somerset. Fosse Lane, Shepton Mallet 1990, Britannia Monogr Ser 18
Scarth, Rev H M, 1865–6 Roman potters’ kiln, discovered at Shepton Mallet, November 1864, on the site of a large brewery belonging to Messrs Morris, Cox and Clarke, Proc Somerset Archaeol Natur Hist Soc 13, 1–5