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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

 

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.

Source

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

Donors

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

Museums

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)

References

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)


Gaulish amphorae 2 (GAL AM 2)

Five samples

This type equates to London 555 amphora (Peacock & Williams no 59), first defined by Wheeler (1930). In France it is referred to as Haltern 70 similis (Dangréaux & Desbat 1988).

General appearance

A pale brown (7.5YR 7/4, 5YR 7/6) or pale orange (2.5YR 7/8) fabric with slightly lighter surfaces, sometimes with a greenish tinge (2.5YR 8/3, 10YR 8/4–7/4) or other light-coloured margins. The fabric is hard with a smooth fracture, and rough to harsh surfaces, depending on whether the external surface is sand gritted. Frequently the sherds are wiped, giving an appearance of bread dough (B Richardson, pers comm).

Hand specimen

This fabric generally has a well-sorted groundmass in a micaceous (silver and gold) clay with larger, ill-sorted inclusions, most measuring <0.4mm. Although silt-sized quartz and limestone are the two most frequent constituents, additional ones vary in importance from sample to sample, with red-brown, red and brown argillaceous inclusions (metamorphic rocks and clay pellets) diagnostic. Iron-rich fragments and feldspar are also visible.

The range of inclusions present here is identical to that described for GAL AM 1. In the case of GAL AM 2, areas of the outside surface may be sprinkled or sanded with particles up to 0.7mm; even on those sherds which are not sanded, occasional larger inclusions seem to protrude the surface. However, it remains difficult to separate the two Gaulish fabrics unless a body sherd with sanding or a indicator sherd (rim, base, handle) is available.

Thin section

An exceptionally fine clay, virtually identical to GAL AM 1 is visible in thin section. It is calcareous and micaceous (muscovite and biotite), containing sparse silt-grade quartz and limestone, and even fewer opaques. A scatter of larger inclusions, measuring 0.1–0.3mm occasionally to 0.6mm, is present: primarily monocrystalline and some polycrystalline quartz and limestone, but also – in order of decreasing frequency – mica, quartz-mica schist, feldspar, ferruginous clay pellets, quartzite, quartz aggregates, fine-grained sandstone and microfossils.

Source

Although a source in Spain has been proposed (Sealey & Tyers 1989), fabric analysis indicates that despite the lack of kiln evidence at least some were produced in Gaul (Dangréaux & Desbat 1988, 123; Desbat 1987). The fabric of our samples is more in keeping with other Gaulish amphorae and this source is supported here.

Donor

Museum of London

Museums

Colchester Museums; Museum of London; CNRS CRA Laboratoire de Céramologie, Lyon (France); Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, Lyon (France)

References

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

Desbat, A, 1987 Note sur la production d’amphores à Lyon au début de l’Empire, SFECAG. Actes du Congrès de Caen, 159–66

Jacquin, L, Becker, C, Dangréaux, B, & Genin, M, 1993 Un dépôt d’amphores lyonnaises sur le site de l’Ilot 24, Revue Archéologique de l’Est et du Centre-Est 44, 105–41

Sealey, P R, & Tyers, P A, 1989 Olives from Roman Spain: a unique amphora find in British waters, Antiq J 69, 53–72

Symonds, R P, & Wade, S, 1999 Roman pottery from excavations in Colchester, Colchester Archaeol Rep 10

Wheeler, R E M, 1930 London in Roman times

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

Plate 70: Fresh sherd break of GAL AM 2 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 70: Fresh sherd break of GAL AM 2 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 70.1: Photomicrograph of GAL AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 70.1: Photomicrograph of GAL AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

Plate 70.2: Photomicrograph of GAL AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 0.87 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 70.2: Photomicrograph of GAL AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 0.87 mm)


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