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The National Roman Fabric Reference Collection: a Handbook

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Appendix 1: Keywords and Definitions
Appendix 2: Physical Layout of Sherds Housed in the NRFRC


Imported Samian

In some cases samples included here are from kiln sites, but more frequently they are ascribed to a particular kiln by the potter’s stamp and it is this information that is given under the Source heading. Where unstamped, they have been securely attributed to a kiln centre, frequently by decoration, and in these cases Source is excluded.

In terms of a standard reference, the characterisation of colour for samian fabrics has always presented a problem, since the gradation of the colours in the abridged reference work of the Munsell Soil Color Charts, commonly available to archaeologists, is too coarse to define adequately the colour domain of samian fabrics. Using the colour charts in the recommended fashion, choosing the Munsell colour patch of ‘best fit’ more often than not results in colours which are distinguishable by eye being given the same Munsell code. However, since the Munsell Charts represent selected planes from a colour continuum, a partial solution to the problem can be attempted by placing each fabric colour in the continuum, estimating its distance from the nearest reference point, meaning the nearest Munsell colour patch. This we have tried to do, in a general fashion, in cases where there was no obvious ‘best fit’, but it was done without recourse to the enlarged Munsell Charts where these values are actually illustrated.

Samian bibliography is complex, but one invaluable reference work which brings together a vast amount of bibliographic and other information on most of the production centres imported into Britain, except for the German and Italian ones, is:

Bémont, C, & Jacob, J-P (eds), 1986 La terre sigillée gallo-romaine. Lieux de production du Haut Empire: implantations, produits, relations, Documents d’Archéologie Française 6, Paris

Additional references which are particularly applicable to the study of vessels types for all the production areas include:

Oswald, F, & Pryce, T Davies, 1920 Introduction to the study of terra sigillata

Stanfield, J, 1929 Unusual forms of terra sigillata: second series, Arch J 93, 101–16

Webster, P V, with contributions by Dannell, G B, 1996 Roman samian pottery in Britain, Practical handbook in archaeology 13

Much scientific analysis has been undertaken on samian, normally drawing upon products from different production areas. The following references provide an overview of the different techniques which have been used to characterise samian wares:

Mirti, P, Zelano, V, Agura, R, Ferrara, E, & Appolonia, L, 1990 Roman pottery from Augusta Praetoria (Aosta, Italy): a provenance study, Archaeometry 32, 163–75

Picon, M, Carre, C, Cardoliani, M L, Vichy, M, Hernandez, J A, & Mignard, J L, 1975 Composition of La Graufesenque, Banassac and Montans terra sigillata, Archaeometry 17, 191–9

Picon, M, Vichy, M, & Meille, E, 1971 Composition of the Lezoux, Lyon and Arezzo samian ware, Archaeometry 13, 191–208

Tite, M S, Bimson, M, & Freestone, I C, 1982 An examination of the high gloss surfaces finishes on Greek Attic and Roman samian wares, Archaeometry 24, 117–26