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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


German Coarse Fabrics

A related group of coarse ware pottery was produced at a number of sites in the Eifel/Rhine area of Germany which in aggregate is frequently referred to as ‘Eifelkeramik.’ Included amongst the production areas are Speicher, Mayen and Urmitz, where pottery was produced during both the Roman and medieval periods. Samples from both Speicher and Mayen are included here, and the two fabrics are described separately below.

General appearance/hand specimen

Briefly, Mayen ware contains sedimentary rock inclusions, while Speicher ware is restricted to quartz. They are united however by being very hard with a harsh ‘pimply’ surface – due to protruding inclusions, hackly fracture and frequently mottled surfaces. In Britain, both typically occur as ledge-rim or bead-rim jars, and dishes. Roman mortaria, best known from early Tiberio-Claudian levels at Sheepen (Hartley 1985b), are in allied fabrics and have been associated with production in this region (Williams 1985, 1993), but at this time it has not been possible to include samples of these vessels in the collection. Richardson (1986, 110) has also allied a group of 3rd century mortaria to production at Speicher and Urmitz.


These wares are part of a long tradition of pottery making, continuing into the medieval period, and known from kilns throughout the region. Inclusions in the fabric are compatible with the regional geology, as summarised by Richardson (1986, 109–10).


Fulford, M G, & Bird, J, 1975 Imported pottery from Germany in late Roman Britain, Britannia 6, 171–81

Gose, E, 1976 Gefässtypen der römischen Keramik im Rheinland, Cologne (2nd ed)

Hartley, K F, 1985b The mortaria – discussion and conclusions, in Sheepen: an early Roman industrial site at Camulodunum (R Niblett), CBA Res Rep 57, 92 and microfiche 2E7-G5

Redknap, M, 1988 Medieval pottery production at Mayen: recent advances, current problems, in Zur Keramik des Mittelalters und der beginnenden Neuzeit im Rheinland: Medieval and later pottery from the Rhineland and its markets (eds D R M Gaimster, M Redknap & H-H Wegner), BAR Int Ser 440, 3–37

Redknap, M, 1995 Mayen ware from Canterbury, in Excavations in the Marlowe Car Park and surrounding areas. Part 2: the finds (K Blockley, M Blockley, P Blockley, S S Frere & S Stow), The archaeology of Canterbury 5, 737–40

Richardson, B, 1986 The waterfront group: coarsewares and non-samian finewares, in The Roman quay at St Magnus House, London. Excavations at New Fresh Wharf, Lower Thames Street, London 1974–1978 (L Miller, J Schofield & M Rhodes), London Middlesex Archaeol Soc Spec Pap 8, 106–38

Williams, D F, 1985 Petrological analysis of the mortaria, in Sheepen: an early Roman industrial site at Camulodunum (R Niblett), CBA Res Rep 57, 93

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

Mayen Coarse ware (MAY CO)

Five samples

This is also known as German Mayener ware.

General appearance

Mayen ware vessels are frequently khaki (2.5YR 5/3–5/4, 2.5YR 6/3–6/4) or brown (10YR 4/2), buff (10YR 8/3–8/4) to pale orange or cream (10YR 7/4, 7.5YR 7/6) both on the surface and break, occasionally with a light grey (7/0-6/0) core.

Hand specimen

A vitrified clay matrix, appearing very dense and clean, is typical of the fabric. It is characterised by abundant ill-sorted subrounded red-brown sandstone or finer rock fragments (0.2–3.0mm). The remaining inclusions range between 0.3–2.0mm, but normally do not exceed 1.0mm. Feldspar is abundant to common, frequently with visible cleavage planes, followed by fewer accessory minerals as common to sparse. Finally, sparse quartz is also present. Varying quantities of red iron-rich inclusions (0.1–0.5mm) are present, some of which may be sedimentary rocks but are too small to identify accurately in the hand specimen.

Thin section

The clay contains common ill-sorted subangular fine to very coarse-grade sand, including fragments of a very fine quartz sandstone, elongate grains of siltstone/slate, twinned and untwinned feldspar, greenish/tawny pleochroic clinopyroxene, porphyritic lava and brown amphibole.


Canterbury Museums; Museum of London


Canterbury Museums; Department of Medieval & Later Antiquities, The British Museum (sherds in Medieval reference collection); Museum of London; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn (Germany); Landesamt fur Denkmalpflege, Abteilung der Archäologische Denkmalpflege Amt, Koblenz (Germany) (medieval); Eifeler Landschaftsmuseum, Genovevaburg, Mayen (Germany)


Eiden, H, 1982 Ausgrabungen an Mittelrhein und Mosel in 1963–1976, Trier

Redknap, M, 1987 The Roman and medieval pottery industry of the West German Eifel, Unpublished PhD, Institute of Archaeology, University of London

Redknap, M, 1999 Die römischen und mittelalterlichen Töpfereien in Mayen, Kreis Mayen-Koblenz, Berichte zur Archäologie an Mittelrhein und Mosel 6, 1-401

Unverzagt, W, 1916 Die Keramik des Kastells Alzei, Materialen zur römisch-germanischen Keramik 2, Frankfurt-am-Main

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

Plate 51: Fresh sherd break of MAY CO (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 51: Fresh sherd break of MAY CO (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 51.1: Photomicrograph of MAY CO (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 51.1: Photomicrograph of MAY CO (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm)

Speicher Oxidised ware (SPE OX)

Single sample

Also known as German Speicherer ware.

General appearance

Our sample, from Speicher itself, is pale orange or cream (7.5YR 8/6) with darker (7.5YR 7/6, 7.5YR 6/3) slightly mottled surfaces. Although not all sherds are of this colour, it is typical of the ware.

Hand specimen

This fabric is similar to Mayen products, but in the hand appears to be dominated by quartz rather than rock fragments. Inclusions are well sorted with abundant quartz set in a dense clean clay matrix. Most quartz, including polycrystalline grains, ranges between 0.3–2.2mm, but is usually 0.5–1.0mm, while sparse smaller grains measuring <0.2mm occur consistently. In addition, sparse red-brown iron-rich inclusions (0.2–1.0mm), white or pink clay pellets (0.6–5.0mm) and feldspar (0.8mm) can be seen in the hand specimen.

Thin section

In thin section an isotropic clay matrix, containing sparse silt-grade quartz with common to abundant subrounded to rounded inclusions (frequently 0.5–1.0mm), sometimes metamorphoed, is visible. In the larger size range both monocrystalline and polycrystalline quartz, medium to coarse-grade sandstone and siltstone are common; quartzite and chert are rare. Opaques, in mixed sizes, and large clay pellets are rarely identified.


Department of Greek & Roman Antiquities, The British Museum


Department of Greek & Roman Antiquities, The British Museum; Museum of London; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Trier (Germany)


Goethert-Polaschek, K, 1977 Speicher-Herforst, in Führer zu Sudwestliche Eifel. Bitburg, Prüm, Daun, Wittlich, Führer zu Vor- und Frühgeschichtlichen Denkmälern 33, 200–7 (summary of excavations with sources)

Hussong, L, & Cüppers, H, 1972 Die Trier Kaiserthermen. Die spätrömischen und frühmittelalterliche Keramik, Trierer Grabungen und Forschungen 1, Mainz (key sites to regions)

Loeschcke, S, 1922 Tonindustrie von Speicher und Umgebung, Trierer Heimatblätter 1, 5–13

Loeschcke, S, 1923 Tonindustrie von Speicher und Umgebung, Trierer Heimatblätter 2, 11–22

Loeschcke, S, 1931 Die römischen Ziegelöfen im Gemeindewald zu Speicher, Trierer Zeitschrift 6, 1–7

Plate 52: Fresh sherd break of SPE OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 52: Fresh sherd break of SPE OX (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 52.1: Photomicrograph of SPE OX (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 52.1: Photomicrograph of SPE OX (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm)

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