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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


Pakenham Fabrics

A complex industry producing colour-coated and other wares in the traditions of the Lower Rhineland, Colchester and the Nene Valley was located at Pakenham. Three different surface treatments on one fabric are represented here and include colour-coated, mica-dusted and white-slipped wares. A variety of vessel types was produced in these fabrics, including rouletted and indented beakers, rouletted bowls and lids and painted bowls similar to Dragendorff 35/6.

General appearance

Our fabric divisions are united by being pale orange-brown (5YR 7/6) or red-brown (10R 6/8–5/8). They are hard with an irregular fracture and a rough/powdery feel.

Hand specimen

Essentially this is a well-sorted inclusion suite, mostly 0.1–0.2mm, set in a clean clay matrix containing common fine silver mica. Quartz is abundant, occasionally to 0.5mm, while black and red-brown iron-rich grains and limestone, to 1.0mm, are sparse. Larger red-brown argillaceous grains are infrequent, but may occur up to 1.5mm.

Thin section

Due to their overall similarity, one sample of colourcoated ware was considered representative of these fabrics. In section well-sorted abundant quartz, frequently 0.1–0.2mm in size, with occasional larger grains (to c 0.5mm) is visible. The isotropic matrix is micaceous, consisting of abundant muscovite and biotite mica (to c 0.3mm). Opaques are sparse, but mirror the other inclusions in size. Also present, although never common, are polycrystalline quartz and flint, and smaller quantities of feldspar, quartzite and fine-grained sandstone. Rare amphiboles can also be identified. Streaks of anisotropic clay, equating to the argillaceous grains described for the hand specimen, are also visible.


The industry is known from kilns in and near a substantial ‘small town’ at Pakenham in north-west Suffolk (Smedley & Owles 1961).


Suffolk County Council, Bury St Edmunds


Suffolk County Council Archaeology Section, Bury St Edmunds; Ipswich Museum


Smedley, N, & Owles, E, 1961 Some Suffolk kilns: II. Two kilns making colour-coated ware at Grimstone End, Pakenham, Proc Suffolk Inst Archaeol Hist 28, 203–25

Pakenham Colour-coated ware (PAK CC)

Five samples

General appearance

Slips on this ware are thin and matt, usually dark brown (5YR 4/1–3/1, 10YR 3/1) or red-brown (10R 5/8) in colour. Beakers were frequently produced in this fabric group.

Plate 152: Fresh sherd break of PAK CC (width of field 24 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 152: Fresh sherd break of PAK CC (width of field 24 mm)

Plate 152.1: Photomicrograph of PAK CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm). Click to see a larger version

Plate 152.1: Photomicrograph of PAK CC (XPL) (width of field 1.74 mm)

Pakenham Mica-dusted ware (PAK MD)

Single sample

General appearance

The surface colour of our mica-dusted sample is close to the hue of the body, although slightly darker on the exterior surface (5YR 6/6) and covered with abundant flakes of gold mica up to 0.5mm. Bowls are the most common product of this fabric variant.

Pakenham White-slipped ware (PAK WS)

Single sample

General appearance

Our example has a slipped surface, cream (10YR 8/3) in colour. Jars and flagons are typical, often with horizontal bands of brown paint (7.5YR 4/2).

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