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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


Palestinian amphorae (PAL AM)

Four samples

This fabric is part of a long tradition of amphora production in Palestine, and includes the form defined by Peacock & Williams as Class 46. It seems unlikely that body sherds of the type have been identified in Roman Britain, but it is included here to highlight similarities with the Peacock & Williams No 66 and Peacock & Williams Class 12 amphorae.

General appearance

This is a distinctively orange (2.5YR 6/6–6/8) fabric, frequently with lighter surfaces (2.5YR 7/8, 2.5YR 6/6) and occasionally with red or white painted decoration on the shoulder. It is soft, with a harsh surface and hackly fracture.The high density of inclusions results in a granular fabric that abrades easily. A ribbed amphora, it is easily distinguished from Peacock & Williams Class 12 by its size, colour and granular nature; in size it is more allied to the Peacock & Williams No 66.

Hand specimen

The fabric is characterised by well-sorted inclusions of abundant quartz (occasionally iron coated, 0.2–0.3mm), together with common limestone (0.1–0.2mm), sometimes as surface eruptions up to 4.5mm. Individual samples may have a range of other small calcareous inclusions, comprising microfossils and shell, while sparse black to red-brown iron-rich inclusions and red clay pellets (0.1–0.5mm) are also present.

Thin section

Under the petrological microscope well-sorted inclusions comprise abundant subrounded quartz, frequently measuring 0.2–0.3mm although occasionally up to 0.4mm, in a slightly silty, calcareous matrix. While some limestone fragments are in the same size range as the quartz, it commonly measures <0.2mm, rarely to 2.5mm. Other inclusions comprise sparse microfossils, opaques, clay pellets and mixed ferromagnesian accessory minerals, and rare feldspar, polycrystalline quartz, chert and quartzite.


Limited production is known in Palestine from the 2nd to the 7th century (Kingsley 1994–5, 45).


Center for Maritime Studies, University of Haifa (Israel)




Kingsley, S, 1994–5 Bag-shaped amphorae and Byzantine trade: expanding horizons, Bull Anglo-Israel Archaeol Soc 14, 39–56

Riley, J A, 1979 The coarse pottery from Benghazi, in Sidi Khrebish Excavations, Benghazi (Berenice) 2 (ed J A Lloyd), 91–497, Tripoli

Riley, J A, 1981 The pottery from cisterns 1977.1, 1977.2 and 1977.3, in Excavations at Carthage 1977 conducted by the University of Michigan 6 (ed J H Humphrey), 85–124, Ann Arbor

Rosenthal-Heginbottom, R, 1988 The pottery, in Excavations in Rehovot-in-the-Negev I: the northern church (Y Tsafrir, J Patrich, R Rosenthal-Heginbottom, I Hershkovitz & H D Nevo), Qedem 25, 78–96

Zemer, A, 1978 Storage jars in ancient sea trade, Haifa

Zevi, F, & Tchernia, A, 1969 Amphores de Byzacène au Bas Empire, Antiquités Africaines 3, 173–214

Plate 78: Fresh sherd break of PAL AM (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 78: Fresh sherd break of PAL AM (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 78.1: Photomicrograph of PAL AM (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 78.1: Photomicrograph of PAL AM (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

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