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4.5 Samian in the third century

The Project has aimed to consider evidence relating to the chronology of samian supply and use in the third century AD. This has been an arena for some debate and disagreement. An aim has been to examine samian in the third century via stratified phased groups of the period and via other indicators.

4.6 Exploring the archaeological distribution of samian

Both the Pilot Survey of Phase 1 and the article published in The Archaeological Journal (Willis 1997b; 1998a) demonstrated that samian data carries a strong potential for exploring a variety of processes within the culture and economics of the era. The Project has therefore aimed to exploit samian data as tool for engaging a range of social processes and practice within Britain. Areas examined are outlined under Section 2.3.

The various sets of data used to engage with these aspects have necessarily been compiled from studies using consistent methodologies. Amongst other possibilities this has enabled like-with-like comparison between groups and assemblages of samian from similar types of site, and, indeed, between different types of site. These set of data resources then, relating to specific aspects such as samian in burials, proportions of decorated vessels, etc. should be particularly helpful for those interested in investigating comparative social, cultural and economic indicators.

4.7 Considering samian data within the wider context of study of the Roman era in Britain and Europe

Study and analysis samian ware carries much potential for elucidating various aspects of cultural life during the Roman era. It is important though that analysis of samian data and its interpretation is undertaken in the light of the wider evidence for the period. Samian is part of a broad record of structural influences, possibilities and social practice in Roman Britain and an attempt is made here to evaluate and link trends in the samian data with patterns in other categories of information for the period. Thereby, samian data can be seen in terms of the wider picture of the Roman phenomenon, which, in turn, it enhances.

The Project has aimed at being a relevant study, integrated with the research goals of the period (cf. James and Millett 2001; Willis 2004) and the study was undertaken in light of the broader themes within Roman archaeology. A variety of current substantive issues and themes in the archaeology of the period are considered from the view-point of the samian evidence, for instance, site status and identity, structured deposition. It is intended that the results of this examination of samian have resonance beyond the field of pottery study.

Considering the wider canvas, samian work has always been an international study (cf. Stanfield and Simpson 1958; 1990; Marsh 1981; Bird 1998; 2003; Genin and Vernhet 2002; and as might be seen in the detail of virtually every specialist report upon samian assemblages). Ultimately, the contribution and impact of this Project should be of international significance. The data collected and presented here characterize various key trends in the supply, distribution, use and consumption of samian in Britain. This body of evidence thereby invites use by scholars working in Britain, elsewhere in the Empire, and beyond its bounds where samian is found. Internet Archaeology is therefore a highly appropriate medium for its dissemination. There is great scope here for inter-provincial comparison at many levels. Connections and comparisons are observed between the evidence from Britain and that elsewhere in the Empire in the course of the present study (eg. vis-à-vis the composition of samian assemblages by form and samian in burials). If similar collated sets of data had been brought together for other regions of the Empire, using corresponding methodologies it would be possible to make more direct comparisons between the trends identified by the present Project and the incidence of samian on mainland Europe. At present though there is a paucity of similar synthetic studies for continental Europe.

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