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11.4 The repair of samian compared to that of other pottery types

With few exceptions samian was repaired with disproportionate frequency compared to other types of vessels: the repair of coarse ware sherds is very rare (Marsh 1981, 227; King and Millett 1993, table 16.5; Evans 1996a, 89; Evans 1996b, 62; Booth 1997, 123; Bell and Evans 2002, 415; Willis 1998a). At Birdoswald, for example, among the samian from the Field Study Centre there are six vessels with indications of repair, while among the samian from The Spur there are three vessels which show repair (cf. Appendix 11.1). Yet there are apparently no coarse ware items with evidence of repair (Evans forthcoming b). Occasionally other 'specialist vessels' show repair, such as the riveting of mortaria (Bell and Evans 2002, 415; Evans forthcoming d) and lead plugs which occasionally are found on amphorae.

Recently, Evans has recorded the repair via riveting of coarse ware vessels at a number of rural sites in north-west Wales, particularly of mortaria and Black Burnished ware (Longley et al. 1998; Evans forthcoming d). Evidently, these useful types were repaired where access to replacements may have been restricted, as may have been the case in other upland and remote areas (see below and Section 11.5). Evans notes that, 'At Cefn Cwmwd [Anglesey] rivet holes occurred four times on samian, six times on BB1 and three times on Mancetter mortaria. Giving an overall riveting rate (no. of rivet holes/total sherd no/100) of a massive 6.7%, with 9.5% of the samian being riveted, 6.9% of the BB1 and 21% of the Mancetter mortarium sherds' (Evans forthcoming d). Among the pottery from three other rural sites in Gwynedd (north-west Wales), namely Bryn Eryr (Longley et al. 1998), Bush Farm, Port Dinorwic (Longley et al. 1998) and Graeanog (Evans forthcoming c), Evans notes that 15 rivet holes occur on BB1 compared with two on samian; iron staples were employed at these sites even on samian (Evans forthcoming d).

Evans (pers. comm.) has suggested that, such upland areas apart, the proportion of repaired vessels among site assemblages, including all the pottery, is generally at level of c. 0.1%. This is borne out by his data on the pottery from Flavian-Hadrianic deposits at Binchester, as well as the Antonine-4th century deposits there, and the assemblages from the roadside settlement at Shiptonthorpe and the rural sites at Thornwell Farm, Chepstow and Worberry Gate, Somerset (Evans forthcoming b). It is very largely samian that is repaired at these and other sites, not other pottery types.

11.5 The frequency of repair among samian assemblages, by site

Table 73 shows the frequency of repaired vessels among samian assemblages at various sites, arranged by site type. Such a body of data of this type has not previously been brought together, and so the results are of some interest. The table shows a pattern in so far as the proportions of repaired vessels vary according to site type. Data are available for nine horizons from military sites. Two of the latter come from the campaign installation at Strageath on the edge of the Highlands (Frere and Wilkes 1989), where the samian associated with the Flavian occupation shows the lowest frequency of repair (0.8%) among the nine samples. This may be related to the short duration of the occupation (c. 3-4 years), and perhaps might also reflect a sufficient level of supply. The samian associated with the Antonine occupation at this site, by contrast, has the highest rate of repair of the nine samples at 5.2%; this phase of occupation was much longer than that of the Flavian presence, and will have been long enough for a number of samian vessels to have broken and be in need of repair; this high figure may, potentially, indicate restricted access to samian in this comparatively remote location. Of particular interest, when these Strageath samples are excluded, the seven remaining samples, from various military sites, have closely similar proportions of decorated samian all lying between 1.2 and 2.6%, giving an approximate average of 2% repaired. To this group might be added that from Orton's Pasture, Rocester, an evident shrine/religious focus probably associated with the Roman military (Ferris et al. 2000) where c. 1% of the samian assemblage shows repair.

Regrettably, there are just four samples available from major civil centres; this is a function of the way in which samian has been reported from such sites: with so much to report from interventions at sites of this type, full lists of samian, with repairs noted, have not been published. Three of the samples are quantified by 'number of vessels' (Table 73) while a further sample is by 'number of sherds' (the County Hall site, Dorchester; Appendix 11.1). The four samples show a low frequency of repair (Table 73; Appendix 11.1), perhaps because it was easier to replace breakages with new vessels at these comparatively well-supplied centres. The sample from the Museum of London collections is the assessment of the decorated samian undertaken by Marsh (1981) with 1% of the items showing evidence of repair; this compares closely with the rate of 0.9% (all samian forms) in the case of 93-5 Borough High Street, in the Southwark suburb (Table 73). The other sample from a major civil centre by 'number of vessels' comes from the immediate extra-mural area at Wroxeter with 0.8% of the samian showing repair. At the County Hall site, Dorchester, evidence of repair, via riveting, was observed on four sherds, representing 1.6% of the total number of samian sherds recovered during the excavations (Appendix 11.1; Mills and Corney 1993, 42).

The frequency of repair among the samples from the smaller civil centres (Small Towns, roadside settlements, smaller nucleated centres, etc.) is higher in all cases than the equivalent figures from the major centres. There are seven samples from smaller centres, with frequency of repaired samian ranging between 1.7 and 5.5%; the average proportion is over 2% and thus at least double the rate at the majority of the major centres. This is a strong difference in frequency which may well be highlighting the relative difference in ease of replaceability. Not only was samian somewhat less common at the smaller centres, compared with the major centres (cf. Section 7.2), but the respective levels of wealth between some inhabitants at these respective sites may explain the higher level of repaired vessels at the smaller centres. In so far as repaired vessels may have been regarded as 'seconds', they may have been marketed to these sites. These are normative evaluations; other less functional explanations may be valid. At Catterick, Bainesse, 1.4% of samian sherds (predominantly 2nd century; n = 1344 sherds) show evidence of repair (Bell and Evans 2002, table 26, 415) this suggests a frequency lying between that of the major urban centres and the smaller centres; at this time the site at Bainesse was essentially a roadside settlement on the fringe of a military centre which then became civilian; throughout, the Catterick complex appears to have been a comparatively important centre with relatively high levels samian supply.

Finally, there are a few samples available from rural sites of various types (Table 73). There are three samples from high-status rural sites, namely the villa at Winterton, the villa beside the roadside centre at Hayton and the 1555 site at Snettisham; all three sites have a similar frequency of repaired samian at between 2.1 and 2.7%. Curiously, the more humble sites by the A1 at Norman Cross, Tort Hill East, Tort Hill West and Vinegar Hill have just one repaired item between them, from a sample of 150 vessels. In striking contrast, the level of repaired samian at Cefn Cwmwd (Anglesey) is 16.7%. This may be because access to replacements was not straightforward (cf. Evans forthcoming d) and/or because the site and others like it were not closely integrated into the Romano-British trading networks; an attitude of 'economy' and semi-autarky may also have been factors. At Holbeach St Johns, Shell Bridge (1961, Site B) a further remarkably high level of repair is recorded at 20% (3 in 15). At this site, in a geographically 'marginal' location, farming and salt making occurred (Gurney 1999). This exceptionally high level of repair might indicate a community lacking the wealth to lavish on samian ware – or the community may have brought only 'expendable' pottery to what may have been a seasonally occupied site.

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