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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

 

Wroxeter Fabrics

Mortaria and coarse wares were produced at Wroxeter, but at present it is mortarium distribution that is best understood and as such, only mortaria are included here. Four fabrics are represented in the collection and are defined as Oxidised, White, White-slipped and Red-slipped ware.

Hand specimen

The mortaria are united by their similar trituration grits, all of which contain quartz and red-brown rock fragments, identified in thin section as altered igneous rocks, although differing radically in their size and sorting (see also Wilderspool).

Thin section

Three samples were thin sectioned, all of which are united by having a clean clay matrix with only sparse silt-grade quartz inclusions. More importantly, they all share inclusions of altered igneous rock fragments as noted above.

Source

Of the various fabric groupings, only ‘Raetian’ mortaria have been found in association with a kiln in the vicinity of Wroxeter; distribution of the other types would support a similar source.

Donor

English Heritage

Museums

Carmarthen Museum; Wroxeter Roman Site Museum

References

Bushe-Fox, J P, 1913 Excavations on the site of the Roman town at Wroxeter, Shropshire. 1912, Rep Res Comm Soc Antiq London 1

Ellis, P (ed) 2000 The Roman baths and macellum at Wroxeter. Excavations by Graham Webster 1955–85, Engl Heritage Archaeol Rep 9

Hartley, K F, 1985d Mortaria, in An Iron Age and Roman settlement outside Kenchester (Magnis), Herefordshire. Excavations 1977–1979 (T Wilmott & S P Q Rahtz), Trans Woolhope Natur Field Club 45, 142–5

Hartley, K F, 1993c Mortaria, in Caersws Roman fort and vicus, Montgomeryshire, Powys, 1984–92 (N W Jones), Montgomeryshire Coll 81, 49–53

Hartley, K F, 1997 ‘Raetian’ mortaria in Britain, Acta Rei Cretariae Romanae Fautorum 35, 239–44 (an extended version will appear in J Roman Pottery Stud 15)

Brennan, D, and Hartley, K F 2003 Mortaria, in Excavations in Roman Carmarthen 1978–1993 (H James with W John, N Ludlow & K Murphy), Britannia Monogr Ser 20, 242–54


Wroxeter Oxidised ware (WRX OX)

Single sample

General appearance

This sample is orange (5YR 7/6) with a grey-brown (10YR 7/2) core and orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8) surfaces, which are burnished and knife-trimmed externally. It is hard with an irregular fracture and smooth feel.

Hand specimen

In this sherd, the matrix contains well-sorted inclusions and glistens with both fine silver and gold lights similar to mica. However, this may be reflections from the quartz, since in thin section mica is present only as a single thread for Wroxeter as a whole. Quartz, mostly 0.2–0.3mm (but ranging between 0.1–1.5mm), is common, while the remaining inclusions of brown quartz-rich clay pellets (1.0–1.5mm), black iron-rich grains (0.2–1.0mm), limestone (0.3–0.5mm) and quartz sandstone (0.5mm) are all sparse. The trituration grits are abundant, densely packed and well sorted (2.0–3.0mm but range between 1.0–6.0mm) and consist of common subrounded red-brown rocks and quartz (rarely polycrystalline).

Thin section

This variant was considered identical to WRX RS and therefore was not sectioned.

Plate 149a: Fresh sherd break of WRX OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149a: Fresh sherd break of WRX OX (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 149b: Trituration grits on WRX OX (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149b: Trituration grits on WRX OX (width of field 24 mm)


Wroxeter Red-slipped ware (WRX RS)

Two samples

This group is restricted to ‘Raetian’ mortaria.

General appearance

The type is orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8–5/8) with a dark red (10R 4/8) or purple-brown (2.5YR 5/4) slip, which is normally restricted to the upper surface of the flange and the internal concavity below the bead. The fabric is hard with an irregular fracture and a rough feel, although smooth where slipped.

Hand specimen

This is a well-fired fabric with clay matrix as described above. Inclusions are generally well sorted: quartz (0.1–0.6mm, mostly 0.3–0.5mm) is common, with black iron-rich grains (0.2–0.5mm) and feldspar sparse. Large inclusions, also sparse, comprise red, brown, white and black rock fragments (0.5–1.0mm) and elongate, mica-rich argillaceous grains (c 1.7mm). The trituration grits measure between 1.5–4.0mm, and consist of well-sorted red-brown rocks and quartz, sometimes polycrystalline, although few are extant on our sherd after thin sectioning.

Thin section

This sample is dominated by well-sorted, frequently rounded inclusions measuring between c 0.2–05mm, occasionally to 1.0mm. Included amongst this size range are common quartz (sometimes polycrystalline) and less flint. Trituration grits consist of subangular rock fragments, predominantly altered fine-grained igneous varieties, up to 3.0mm.

Plate 149.1: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX RS (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149.1: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX RS (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

Plate 149.2: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX RS (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 149.2: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX RS (XPL) (width of field 3.5 mm)


Wroxeter White ware (WRX WH)

Six samples

This group is the most important of the Wroxeter mortarium fabrics.

General appearance

Typical examples of this fabric are cream to white (10YR 8/3), although they are sometimes fired to shades of orange or orange-brown (5YR 6/8, 2.5YR 6/8) on the upper surface of the flange in the area of the spout. The fabric is hard with an irregular fracture and a rough feel, and the external surface is knife trimmed. A variant of this fabric (probably slightly earlier in date) may have concentric scoring on the inner surface of the vessels (K Hartley, pers comm).

Hand specimen

A wide range of variants can be identified within this group, which form a continuum between nearly inclusionless (Plate 150c) and sandy (Plate 150a). The matrix is similar to the other variants described here with Wroxeter, compact and well fired (slightly glistening) with well-sorted inclusions, occasionally to 1.0mm. Rounded and subrounded quartz, mostly 0.2–0.3mm, and slightly finer red iron-rich grains (mostly <0.2mm) are both common. Inclusions in the largest size range tend to be red iron-rich grains. As for the vessel clay, a wide range of variability can be noted in the trituration grits. In some samples (Plate 150b) they are small and well sorted (normally 0.6–1.0mm), consisting of common quartz and sparser fragments of red or dark fine-grained rocks; elsewhere the two constituents may occur in equal proportions. Other samples contain the same range of grits but in a coarser size, such as those described for WRX OX, RS and WS.

Thin section

This sample differs slightly from that described for red-slipped and white-slipped fabrics, containing somewhat finer inclusions normally not exceeding c 0.4mm. In addition to quartz (including polycrystalline) and rare flint, few other inclusions are visible apart from sparse subrounded argillaceous inclusions up to 0.45mm. A single trituration grit of altered igneous rock measuring 0.9mm is visible.

Plate 150a: Fresh sherd break of WRX WH (sandy variant) (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 150a: Fresh sherd break of WRX WH (sandy variant) (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 150b: Trituration grits on WRX WH (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 150b: Trituration grits on WRX WH (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 150c: Fresh sherd break of WRX WH (fine variant) (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 150c: Fresh sherd break of WRX WH (fine variant) (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 150.1: Photomicrograph of WRX WH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 150.1: Photomicrograph of WRX WH (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


Wroxeter White-slipped ware (WRX WS)

Three samples

General appearance

This variant is orange-brown (2.5YR 6/8) with a duller surface and a cream or cream-buff (10YR 8/3, 7.5YR 8/2, 2.5Y 8/2) slip. One sample has a pale grey (6/0) core. The fabric is hard with an irregular fracture and a rough feel.

Hand specimen

Although sometimes slightly silty, the matrix of this fabric is otherwise identical to those already described. Inclusions are well sorted, normally measuring c 0.3–0.5mm. Common rounded and subrounded quartz dominate, falling into a range between 0.2–0.7mm; other inclusions are sparse or absent in some samples and comprise black iron-rich grains and dark-coloured rock fragments. Trituration grits are well sorted (mostly 2.0–3.0mm), consisting of abundant quartz (1.0–3.0mm), many of which are polycrystalline, and sparse red-brown rocks.

Thin section

This sample is similar to that described for WRX RS mortaria, also containing single grains of feldspar, and a large fragment of limestone. Weathered igneous rock fragments and argillaceous pellets are rare, and some inclusions seen in the matrix and measuring up to 1.0mm may be stray trituration grits.

Plate 151: Fresh sherd break of WRX WS (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 151: Fresh sherd break of WRX WS (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 151.1: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX WS (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 151.1: Photomicrograph of trituration grits on WRX WS (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)


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