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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

 

North African Fabrics

This group includes amphorae produced in modern day Tunisia. Two fabrics, undoubtedly the products of numerous workshops, are commonly found in Britain and they are described here. Although they are mainly distinguished on petrological grounds, there also appears to be a chronological difference between them. Large-bodied cylindrical amphorae were produced in both fabrics, in many cases with a cream-coloured outer skin resulting from the use of salinated water in manufacture.The outer surface is further distinguished by characteristic wiping marks typical on both the early and late vessel forms (Peacock & Williams 1986, 154).

Source

Both fabric types are well known from kiln sites in both northern and central Tunisia and are in keeping with the local geology (Peacock et al 1990)

Donor

Museum of London

Museums

Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter; Museum of London; York Archaeological Trust

References

Keay, S J, 1984 Late Roman amphorae in the western Mediterranean. A typology and economic study: the Catalan evidence, BAR Int Ser 136

Peacock, D P S, Bejaoui, F, & Ben Lazreg, N, 1989 Roman amphora production in the Sahel region of Tunisia, in Amphores romaines et histoire économique: dix ans de recherche, Collection de l’Ecole Française de Rome 114, 179–222, Rome

Peacock, D P S, Bejaoui, F, & Ben Lazreg, N, 1990 Roman pottery production in central Tunisia, J Roman Archaeol 3, 59–84

Peacock, D P S, & Tomber, R S, 1991 Roman amphora kilns in the Sahel of Tunisia: petrographic investigation of kiln material from a sedimentary environment, in Recent developments in ceramic petrology (eds A Middleton & I Freestone), British Museum Occ Pap 81, 289–304

Thomas, C, 1981 A provisional list of imported pottery in post-Roman western Britain and Ireland

Williams, D F, & Carreras Monfort, C, 1995 North African amphorae in Roman Britain: a re-appraisal, Britannia 26, 231–52


North African (Lime-rich) amphorae 1 (NAF AM 1)

Three samples

General appearance

Normally a brick red (10R 5/8) and grey-brown (5YR 4/1, 5YR 5/2–5/3) to grey (2.5Y 4/1) fabric, with the two colours frequently sandwiched as internal and external margins or skins, and sometimes banded on the surface.The external surface is typically covered with a cream (2.5Y 8/3) self slip. It is hard or very hard, with rough surfaces and an irregular to hackly fracture. This fabric is represented by the earliest vessel types in the north African series, referred to as the Africana I, Piccolo or Peacock & Williams Class 33.

Hand specimen

This fabric is characterised by well-sorted, common or abundant rounded quartz and limestone inclusions, found in approximately equal proportions. These inclusions normally measure between 0.2–0.5mm, although grains between 0.1–2.0mm are present. Sparse black iron-rich fragments can be identified within the same size range.

Thin section

As for the hand specimen, abundant well-sorted subrounded and rounded quartz and limestone, present in approximately equal proportions, are set in a sparsely silty clay matrix. Most grains measure c 0.1–0.3mm, although there are rare inclusions to c 1.0mm. Sparse to rare opaques, shell, feldspar and polycrystalline quartz also occur. Rare flecks of mica can be identified, but are not considered diagnostic.

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

Plate 76: Fresh sherd break of NAF AM 1 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 76: Fresh sherd break of NAF AM 1 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 76.1: Photomicrograph of NAF AM 1 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 76.1: Photomicrograph of NAF AM 1 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


North African (Lime-poor) amphorae 2 (NAF AM 2)

Three samples

General appearance

Typically the fabric is brick red (10R 5/6-5/8) throughout, with a cream (2.5Y 8/3) external self-slipped surface. It is hard to very hard with an irregular fracture and rough surfaces, although the self slip abrades easily and the surface therefore may become powdery. The fabric is normally associated with later forms than NAF AM 1, including the Africana II, Grande or Peacock & Williams Classes 34–5.

Hand specimen

In contrast to the lime-rich fabric, well-sorted common or abundant quartz predominates, measuring 0.1–0.4mm with occasional grains up to 0.9mm. Limestone is normally sparse and ill sorted and while mainly in the same size range as the quartz it may occur up to 3.0mm, including eruptions on the surface. Finally, sparse red-brown or black iron-rich inclusions and, in some samples, fine silver mica can be identified.

Thin section

The sample has a well-sorted groundmass of abundant angular monocrystalline quartz, frequently measuring <0.07mm. Common larger grains, most of which are more rounded, are ill sorted and normally do not exceed 0.3mm, although grains to 1.0mm are present. Both limestone and opaques are sparse and, like the quartz, are frequently present to c 0.3mm. Rare polycrystalline quartz, chert and feldspar are also present, as are rare flecks of mica which, as for NAF AM 1, are not considered diagnostic.

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

Plate 77: Fresh sherd break of NAF AM 2 (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 77: Fresh sherd break of NAF AM 2 (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 77.1: Photomicrograph of NAF AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 77.1: Photomicrograph of NAF AM 2 (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


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