21 May 2019

Tags: Collections

The exploration of the Roman town of Calleva Artebatum in Hampshire produced a large number of complete pottery vessels. The whole site was excavated by the Society of Antiquaries between 1890 and 1909. The pottery found ranges from the Iron Age settlers through to the end of the Roman occupation in about 409 AD. The pottery was made in a wide variety of locations from local factory sites to pieces made on continental Europe.

People lived on the site before the Roman inhabitants and left traces of their lives. Many pots from the Iron Age have been found at Silchester. This Iron Age handmade beaker was made between 20 AD to 69 AD.

Pottery beaker
Iron Age Pottery beaker (Museum number REDMG : 1995.1.87)

Locally made pottery

Most of the pottery remains found at the site were made in the local area. Alice Holt ware was made at pottery kilns in the Alice Holt forest in Hampshire. It produces a course grey sandy ware. This pottery jar was found in a pit in 1908 during the Society of Antiquaries excavations.

Pottery jar from Silchester
Alice Holt ware jar (museum number REDMG : 1992.1.1497)

This large grey ware storage jar was made in the New Forest. Pottery was extensively made in the New Forest during the Roman period. The pot is decorated with bands of lattice and has been restored. It is known as the Jubilee Pot because it was found on the day of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The neck inscription 'VI=' is a measurement of capacity, possibly six and two fractions urnae - about eighteen gallons - or, if a dry measure, six and two fractions modii - about twelve modii or three bushels.  The Roman vessel dates from the late 3rd century, 220 AD – 299 AD.

Large pottery jar 'Jubilee Pot'
Jubilee pot (museum number REDMG : 1995.1.88)

This mortarium was found at Silchester. It probably dates to between 180 AD and 239 AD and originates from an Oxfordshire kiln. Mortarium were used to grind up foods and spices. This one still contains the remains of cherries and plums. One of these fruits must have been preserved because they ripen at different times of the year.

Mortarium from Silchester
Mortarium made in Oxfordshire (Museum number REDMG : 1992.1.1611)

Internationally made pottery

Terra signalis ware, commonly known as samian, is well represented in the collection. The red glaze is made from ordinary glass coloured with red iron oxide finely ground and mixed in a thin water slip solution. When fired the moulded and incised ornaments on the vessels are still visible and distinguishable through the delicate glaze. This dish with barbotine decoration around the rim was made in Central Gaul, modern day France. The bowl has been restored from three sherds. The shape of the dish is a standard form called Dragendorff 35. This Roman dish dates from the 2nd century 125 AD-150 AD.

Terra signalis ware at Silchester
Terra signalis ware (museum number REDMG : 1995.81.1332)

The remains of amphorae found at Silchester suggest a trading relationship with southern Europe. Pre-Roman and Italian long-bodied types and globular-bodied Spanish types are represented. Amphorae were used to transport wine and oil, although they could have been reused at Silchester as storage vessels. This neck and handle of an amphora came from Andalusia in Spain. The handle is stamped ‘SCAL.CELS’ which has been interpreted as Scalensia perhaps the olive estate owner and Celsus the foreman.

Neck and handles of an amphora vessel
Neck sherd from an amphora (museum number REDMG : 1995.2.1500)

This Gallo-Belgic black ware beaker has been restored. The drinking vessel is decorated with a motto in black slip VITAM TIBI which means ‘long life to you’. The beaker was made in the Roman 2nd or 3rd century, 150 AD-240 AD, in Central Gaul, which is modern day France.

Black ware motto beaker
Motto beaker (museum number REDMG : 1995.1.160)

If you are interested in seeing these pots you can visit Reading Museum’s Silchester Annexe gallery which displays over 200 vessels from the site.